Career Profile: Janelle Woo, 28

Current Job: Consultant, CentrePoint

Current City/Hometown: Calgary, Alberta

Education: Bachelor of Commerce, Major in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Calgary, 2004

Janelle’s Story: Janelle found her place in the workforce by trusting her instincts and being open to new experiences. After exploring different options, including co-operative education and work exchange programs, she landed her ideal job.

Follow Janelle: CentrePoint

Janelle’s Career Path:

Choose the Right Field of Study

If Janelle Woo had let other people define her career path, you’d be calling her Dr. Woo today. Janelle’s parents wanted her to follow in her older brothers’ footsteps and become a dentist. With that in mind, she enrolled in a Bachelor of Science at the University of Calgary after graduating from high school. But just one semester in, she knew it wasn’t for her. “I didn’t like it and I didn’t do very well,” she says. Janelle switched to a business program, where she found an instant improvement. “Business was a lot more fun and I ended up studying harder and got better grades, so it worked out for the better.”

Consider Co-operative Education

Janelle ended up enrolling in the university’s co-operative education program, which gave her the opportunity to travel across the country and earn money while still in school. Her work took her to Industry Canada in Ottawa, where she spent eight months as an international business development assistant. Janelle enjoyed the government experience—especially the opportunity it gave her to participate in the 2002 G8 Summit. But when she completed her studies in 2004, she wasn’t sure if it was what she wanted to do with her degree.

Look into Opportunities Abroad

Janelle applied for a one-year working visa through the Student Work Abroad Program (SWAP) and boarded a plane to Scotland. “A lot of people were saying that travelling gives you perspective,” she says. “It gave me a bit of perspective, but more than that it gave me a lot of confidence in life. You show up with no job, no friends and a bit of money, and you acquire all that stuff and more.” She found a flat in Scotland and settled into her life there, working at various administrative positions through a temp agency.

Be Open to Temp Work

When Janelle moved back to Canada, she spent some time working in various sectors. But she still wasn’t finding a job that really fit. She turned to Calgary employment agency Bowen in search of temp work—something she learned to value during her time in Scotland. Before going overseas, she says, “I had the perception that I’m too good for temping… But temping does not define who you are. It’s a good way to make money, try different things, maybe get a foot in the door.” That’s certainly the way things played out for Janelle. Impressed by her work, Bowen recommended Janelle for a full-time job at Calgary-based charitable organization CentrePoint.

Draw On Your Education

Janelle has been working at CentrePoint since May 2008. She was initially hired as a business analyst. But as an internal consultant, she says she learned most of what she does today on the job. “My organization’s been nice enough to take risks and want me to develop, so I’ve grown into this position.” Although Janelle isn’t working in commerce, she says her degree laid the foundation for what she does today. “When you enter the workforce, you can see how (your formal education can be applied) in real life, and those are the kinds of lessons that make sense and stay with you.”

Janelle Says:

“One of the things I would have done differently is (been) honest with myself about my strengths, weaknesses and interests. And then done some research into different opportunities. I had no idea I could do consulting for charity! And now I’m at my dream job.”

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