Seeking opportunities after high school with no idea where to find them? You’ve found the place!

Maria Nguyen is an alumnus of our Pathfinder program who was looking for a sense of direction and was able to find it!

Read on to find out how she started networking in high school and cultivated the opportunity to partner with a business after graduation.

Meet Maria!
The Challenge: Overcoming Limiting Beliefs
Strategy #1: Identifying opportunities
Strategy #2: Developing confidence
Strategy #3: Start networking

Meet Maria!

  • Maria was a 2020 Year 12 student at Holy Spirit College
  • She was one of 70 incredible Art of Smart Pathfinders from across NSW for 2020
  • She enjoys arts & crafts, bush walks and playing the guitar!
  • Her dream career is to be a neuropsychologist
  • She gained early entry into a Bachelor of Psychology and Business Administration at Macquarie University 

The Challenge: Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Maria had ambitious goals but struggled with confidence and knowing where to start which ultimately impacted her ability to reach her goals.

“I tend to be more of an introvert so I’m usually not very proactive.”

Insecure about her lack of experience and skillset, Maria did not seek out opportunities that seemed competitive or prestigious.

She doubted she would be successful and was wary about presenting herself as boastful.

Maria admits she was very modest and may have counted herself out of opportunities where she could have been successful!

Now she is confident in her strategy to use her soft skills to achieve the opportunities to build hard skills in future.

“I knew what I wanted to do but not how to get there.”

Maria joined the Art of Smart Pathfinder mentoring program, to find confidence which ultimately led to her successfully partnering with a business after graduation and receiving early entry into her dream degree!

Maria realised she needed to take action and joined Art of Smart’s Pathfinder mentoring program with Cathy Liem as her mentor.

Strategy #1: Identifying opportunities

Ever played a game of Spotto?

Before starting, you probably wouldn’t have noticed so many yellow cars. But soon after, you start seeing them everywhere you go.

Opportunities are kind of like that!

While Maria had brushed over chances to get involved in high school, her Pathfinder mentor highlighted them as great opportunities for experience and growth!

Maria’s mentor looked out for her and provided a valuable example that she could easily follow and implement. 

Maria adopted the mantra, ‘It’s not about skillset but mindset.’ with Cathy’s advice which helped make opportunities seem more achievable.

With this in mind, Maria started seeking new experiences during high school – not just for her resume but for personal and professional growth as well!

Those atypical experiences helped her round out her resume with relevant soft skills employers are always looking for.

Check out what extra-curriculars you could get involved in and why here!

It really is never too late!

These diverse experiences have made Maria feel like she can stand out among other candidates as they generate interest and talking points – something she used to struggle with!

Instead of waiting around for opportunities, she started making her own.

Strategy #2: Developing confidence

Now that Maria had found opportunities, she wanted to make the most of them!

To do this, she wanted to lift her confidence.

Being young, it can be hard to grasp the common greetings and procedures associated with professional life. 

That’s why Maria’s mentor helped clarify not only what simple steps Maria could follow but what employers were looking for from their candidates in the first place.

By having this guidance, her confidence increased with every interaction until it started to come more naturally.

Everything gets easier with time and practice!

When things once fell through and were deemed failures, Maria now reframed them as chances to do better.

Through the Pathfinder program, Maria was able to identify and target her weaknesses. Her introduction to the growth mindset allowed her to actively seek what she desired and reduce her fear of failure.

Strategy #3: Start networking

Maria's LinkedIn profile she started in high school

Heard of Linkedin? Don’t think you need it yet? Neither did Maria.

Here’s why you should get it right now!

Check out the platform here!

At her mentor’s suggestion, Maria downloaded the app and created her profile.

In it, she included all her achievements and experiences while aiming to connect with as many people as possible.

The great thing about LinkedIn is not only that you can message professionals but that they can message you!

And this is exactly what happened for Maria. 

Having a LinkedIn profile in high school is already an admirable feat in itself and with a fully fleshed out profile, you will inevitably draw attention.

Maria’s stellar profile is what led her to be offered the unique opportunity to potentially enter a business partnership!

This all happened because Maria had put herself out there!

“While a part of the selection process, I’ve been having weekly meetings with business coaches and mentors, and was fortunate enough to gain access to exclusive resources and entrepreneurial workshops.”

Her growth into a more confident person enabled her to become proactive and make the most out of this simple message.

By unapologetically flaunting her achievements, Maria created this opportunity for herself and is now reaping the benefits!


Gabrielle Wong is currently the Digital Marketing Assistant at Art of Smart. She is a second year student at the University of Sydney studying a Bachelor of Arts/Advanced Studies majoring in Media and Communications and Marketing.