This paper focuses on commonly used terms in career guidance in order to examine the impact they can have on the way problems are conceptualised and consequently on the solutions that are envisaged. Four such terms are considered, namely ‘vulnerability’, ‘resilience’, ‘employability’, and ‘activation’. Drawing on critical social theory, this paper explores the relationship between language, ... [Show full abstract] thought, and action. It demonstrates the intimate relationship of the four terms to the neoliberal agenda in general and to responsibilisation in particular. The paper concludes by arguing that the career development field has a role to play in the struggle over the meaning of concepts in the public sphere, as the outcome has a bearing on the opportunities for people to flourish.