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Career definitions

02 September 2021

Career Definitions: Key Terms Explained

Contents

Professional language can be confusing for those who haven’t started working yet.

Take a look at our exclusive career definitions guide, organised by industry. 

General

Career

A career is a job, profession, trade or occupation. However, the word career is often used more broadly to mean a professional summary. This includes professional development, promotions and even changes of job.

Career Break/Gap

A career break or gap is a period of time away from employment, often for travel, family reasons or personal development. In job interviews, it is highly likely that any career gaps will need to be explained if they weren’t in the CV.

Not to be confused with Gap Careers.

Entrepreneurship

CEO 

Chief Executive Officer, the senior executive with chief responsibility for the management of a company or organisation. 

CFO

Chief Financial Officer, the senior executive with chief responsibility for the finances of a company or organisation.

Developer

Someone who builds and develops software. 

Landing Page

A standalone web page that a visitor lands on when they click on an online ad, search engine optimised search result or marketing email.

Fintech

Financial Technology, tech that is designed to improve (or automate) the use and delivery of financial services.

Startup

A new business founded by one or more entrepreneurs. 

If you want to find out more about entrepreneurship, check out A Day in the Life of an Entrepreneur with Leona Mondsee.

Investment Banking

IPO

Initial public offering, a process in which a private company goes public by selling its shares to the public on a stock exchange

Listed Company

A company whose shares are listed on the stock exchange. 

Stock ideas

Stocks that a broker pitches to an investor to buy or short.

Discover the world of investment banking in our interview with Erika Terrones-Shibuya, an associate at Goldman Sachs.

Journalism 

Freelance 

To work freelance is to undertake different projects for different employers on a self-employed basis. 

Staff Writer

An employee of a particular newspaper, magazine, TV company etc.

Find out what it's really like to be a journalist in A Day in the Life of a Journalist.

Law

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Ways of resolving disputes without going to court. ADR is often cheaper, quicker and less arduous than going to court, and you don't always have to attend a hearing in person. 

Arbitration

A type of alternative dispute resolution, arbitration is a means of settling a dispute without having to go to court. The opposing parties put their case to an independent person called an arbitrator. 

Bar

Every practising barrister in the UK is a member of the ‘Bar’. The term refers to the bar barristers cross to move from the audience section of the court to the front, where they address the judge.

If an aspiring lawyer is ‘called to the bar’, it means they have passed the Bar Exam and can now legally practise as a barrister in the UK.

Barrister

In the UK, the role of a barrister is to be a specialist in court advocacy and an independent source of legal advice to their clients.

Barristers are usually hired by solicitors to represent a case in court and only become involved when appearing before a court is needed. A barrister pleads the case on behalf of the client and the client's solicitor.

UK barristers are most likely to be self-employed and working in chambers, though sometimes they can work in government departments or agencies, or private organisations (in the in-house legal departments of charities or companies, for example).

Daily tasks can include giving legal advice to solicitors and clients, researching cases, writing legal documents, appearing in court, cross-examining witnesses, reviewing evidence and negotiating settlements or sentences for the client. (University of Law)

BCAT

The BCAT is the Bar Course Aptitude Test, an exam that aspiring barristers have to sit the summer before they begin the 2nd, vocational part of their training: the Bar Course. 

It’s a 55-minute assessment designed to assess a candidate’s critical thinking, judgement and reasoning skills, and make sure they are capable of succeeding in the next stages of their training.

Big Law

The world's biggest and most successful law firms.

Chambers 

Chambers are essentially groups of offices where barristers work. Most barristers in the UK are self-employed; chambers provide a shared space for barristers to work together and share the administrative costs of their workspace.

CILEX

CILEX is the professional body for chartered legal executives, paralegals, legal practitioners and apprentices. 

Clerks

A barristers’ clerk works in barristers’ chambers, ensuring business is running smoothly and providing essential administrative and office support.

Conveyancing

The legal transfer of property from one owner to another.

CPQ 

The CPQ is a new qualification offered by CILEX, the professional body for chartered legal executives, paralegals, legal practitioners and apprentices. 

Marketed as a ‘new approach to legal training’, the CPQ offers a more flexible, practical route to becoming a qualified lawyer. Like an apprenticeship, it combines work with traditional study. Unlike other routes into the profession, the CPQ does not require you to have a degree or legal experience. 

Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)

Otherwise known as a law conversion, the graduate diploma in law is a 1-year course (or 2 years part time) designed to equip non-law students with the knowledge they missed out on by not doing a law degree. 

As of 2021, when the SQE (see below) was introduced, the GDL is no longer a requirement for those training to be solicitors. Aspiring barristers who did not study law continue to take the GDL.

In-House

To work 'in-house', or to be the 'in-house legal counsel', is to carry out legal work for the company or organisation you're employed by.

Lawyers who work for a traditional law firm are employed by the firm to do legal work on behalf of multiple different clients. They tend to specialise in a particular kind of law (e.g. corporate, criminal, or employment law) and a particular area of expertise (e.g. intellectual property or litigation).

An in-house lawyer works directly for their employer and, depending on the size of the legal team, usually deals with a wider range of legal issues.

Their client is their company, so whilst they don't get to work with a wide range of clients, they become much more familiar with the one organisation they represent and get to see the results of their work. 

Inns of Court 

There are 4 Inns of Court - Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. They are the professional associations for barristers in England and Wales, and provide professional support, resources and even financial assistance to aspiring barristers.

Intellectual Property Law

Intellectual property law is all about giving people ownership over the things they create - music, art, inventions, brands, etc. - and protecting it from being copied or stolen.

Lawyer

In the UK, ‘lawyer’ is the general term used to describe anyone qualified to give legal advice. This includes solicitors, barristers and legal executives.

Legal Executive

A legal executive is another kind of lawyer. 

Their duties are somewhat similar to that of a solicitor (and they often work very closely with them) though their practice is usually more specialised. They tend to focus on a particular area of law such as litigation, conveyancing or private client law. 

Their work includes giving legal advice to clients, drafting legal documents, researching cases and representing clients in court in certain situations. 

Litigation

Litigation, also known as dispute resolution, is a process in which two opposing parties attempt to settle a dispute. This might mean the case goes through the courts, mediation or another alternative dispute resolution such as arbitration.

LLB 

Bachelor of Laws degree. Essentially, the abbreviation of a law degree in the UK.

LPC

Legal Practice Course: a stage of training you used to have to complete to become a qualified solicitor in England and Wales. It is now being phased out in favour of the SQE. 

M&A 

Mergers and acquisitions, the consolidation of companies (or assets) through various financial transactions. 

Magic Circle

In the UK, the term 'Magic Circle' is used to describe the 5 most prestigious multinational law firms with headquarters in London: Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus DeringerLinklaters and Slaughter and May

Mini Pupillage

A short period of work experience - usually lasting 3 or 4 days - in a barristers’ chambers spent shadowing working barristers. 

NQ 

Newly-qualified lawyers.

Paralegal

A paralegal is someone who carries out certain kinds of legal work but is not a qualified solicitor, barrister or legal executive. Essentially, their role is to support other legal professionals. Their day-to-day work can cover everything from preparing legal documents and organising case files to admin, proofreading and conducting legal research. 

A paralegal might work in a law firm, at a private organisation, in government or at a non-profit. They can specialise in a variety of areas. 

The path to becoming a qualified paralegal is a lot less regimented - there are no strict entry requirements and training can usually be acquired on the job. As such, it’s not uncommon for aspiring solicitors and barristers to spend time doing paralegal work as a means of gaining legal experience. This can increase competition for job roles.

Private Client Law

Private client lawyers work for individuals to help them manage their wealth, by advising them on tax, for example, or their will.

Pupillage 

A pupillage is the 3rd and final stage in a barrister’s training before they become fully qualified. 

It is a paid, practical training period usually completed in chambers and supervised by experienced barristers.

It lasts 12 months and is split into 2 parts. In the non-practising six months (the ‘first six’), the pupil shadows their supervisor and assists with various tasks. In the practising six months (the ‘second six’), they start taking on their own cases. 

Solicitor

In the UK, the role of a solicitor is to take instructions from clients (individuals, groups, public sector organisations or private companies) and advise them on necessary courses of legal action. Usually, a solicitor is a client's first point of contact and works closely with them throughout their case. 

Things solicitors advise on include personal issues (e.g. divorces and wills) and commercial work (e.g. mergers and acquisitions). Once qualified, a solicitor can work in private practice, in-house for commercial or industrial organisations, in local or central government, or the court service.

Daily tasks can include giving legal advice to clients, translating a client's issues into legal terms, researching cases, writing legal documents, preparing cases or liaising with other legal professionals. (University of Law)

SQE 

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination: 2 exams that aspiring lawyers must pass if they want to become a solicitor. SQE 1 is designed to test the candidate’s ability to use and apply legal knowledge. SQE 2 tests the candidate’s legal skills. 

The SQE is a new qualification introduced in 2021 to replace traditional training models like the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) and the LPC (Legal Practice Course).

Training Contract

A 2-year training period undertaken by aspiring solicitors, either in a law firm or in-house within the law team of a corporation or organisation. 

Vocational 

The education, skills or training that prepare you for a specific career (e.g. to become a doctor, electrician or chef). 

In law, the ‘vocational component’ of a barrister’s training (the Bar Professional Training Course) is designed to give trainees the practical skills and knowledge they’ll need to work as a barrister.  

Marketing 

SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. A key part of marketing, SEO is all about making a website as visible as possible in search engine results so that potential customers can find it. 

Visual Content Creator

The visual content creator is responsible for branding, website design, photography and videos.

Website Manager

The website manager is responsible for making sure the website is functioning effectively.

Medicine

Medical Sciences

The various branches of science concerned with the study of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.

Music 

Lighting Plot

A light plot or lighting plot is a plan drawn up by the lighting designer that shows the director and crew what kind of lights to use and where to put them.

We interviewed David Davies to find out exactly what a Day in the Life of a Music Manager is like.

Politics

DFID

Department for International Development

FCO

Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

PUS

Permanent Under-Secretary.

Interested in a career in politics? Check out our interview with Ben Simpson, a Diplomat at the British Embassy in Tripoli.

Psychology 

Multidisciplinary team

A multidisciplinary team is made up of health professionals with different areas of expertise who all work together to deliver comprehensive patient care.

Find out what a Day in the Life of a Psychologist is really like.

Software Engineering

Code

Computer code is a set of instructions or rules made up of letters and numbers, which, when put in the right order, will tell a computer what to do. 

Front-End Software Engineer

Front-end engineers are responsible for the interface of a website: how it looks, how it works and how user-friendly it is. 

We interviewed Victoria Sloan, a frond-end engineer at Teamwork, to find out what a Day in the Life of a Software Engineer is like.

QA Team

The quality assurance team helps test the product or service to make sure it is functioning as well as it can. This includes helping detect bugs and prevent problems by flagging them to software developers as they arise. 

Vet

First Opinion Vet

A first opinion vet is the first point of call when an animal needs medical attention. This means they need a broad understanding of various species, conditions and treatments. 

Find out from Michael Lazaris, a small animal vet, exactly what it's like.

Writing

Advance

An advance is a lump sum of money paid to a writer by a publishing house before their book is published, based on how much they think the book will earn. It is usually paid in installments throughout the writing and publishing process. The size of the advance will depend on how big the publishing house is, how successful similar books have been in the past, how many books the author has previously published, etc. Most publishers will give a writer an advance ‘against royalties’. This means that for every penny received in advance, the writer must earn the same amount in book sales before they start receiving additional royalties payments. 

Copyeditor/Copyedits

A copyeditor edits a piece of written work to improve fluency and readability and check for any spelling or grammatical mistakes, as well as factual errors. Copyedits are the notes an editor gives to a writer with these changes. 

Fanart/Fan Art

Artwork created by fans of a novel, TV show, film etc. that uses characters or settings from that work. The artwork is not endorsed or commissioned by the creator of the original book, film etc., but is done by the fan as a symbol of their appreciation. 

Query Letter

A query letter is a one-page, formal letter a writer sends to literary agents to persuade them to read their book. It will include an outline of the story (without giving too much away) and a short professional bio, with any professional experience or accolades the writer has achieved. In essence, it’s sort of like a pitch plus a personal statement about a novel.

Proposal

A book proposal is a brief overview of a book idea designed to show a publishing house how marketable it is. It will usually include a summary (subject matter, characters, plot, etc.), state who the intended audience is, why it will sell and how it could be marketed. Essentially, an author writes a proposal to convince a publishing house that their book is worth investing in. 

Royalties

A publisher pays royalties to an author in exchange for the rights to publish their book. Royalties are calculated in percentages based on book sales, so a writer might earn 10% of the r.r.p for every hardback sold and 7.5% for every paperback. 

YA 

Young adult fiction.

Interested in becoming a writer? Check out our interview with Carnegie-nominated author Lauren James. 

Find out what A Day in the Life of a Writer is really like.

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