Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Career consultant helps pupils on the road to success

Rema Menon is the director of Counselling Point and helps school leavers across the country make informed choices about their career path.
Rema Menon, the director of Counselling Point in Dubai, spends her working days advising pupils on personal issues, job hunting, and the university courses that best match their interests and abilities. Lee Hoagland / The National
Rema Menon, the director of Counselling Point in Dubai, spends her working days advising pupils on personal issues, job hunting, and the university courses that best match their interests and abilities. Lee Hoagland / The National

Whether applying for a job or university, Rema Menon’s clients are in good hands

DUBAI // From identifying a person’s flair for a particular career path to helping them find the right university, Rema Menon has become a household name among expatriates and Emiratis looking to study in the UAE or overseas.

The KHDA-licensed education consultant and director of Counselling Point is often surrounded by school pupils seeking guidance to pick the right course, scout for the best universities and sometimes even to help out with personal problems.

“I found that there was a real need to help students and their families make informed choices when it comes to their careers,” said the 51-year-old, who works from an office in Bur Dubai.

“It’s not just about filling in application forms. It is important to help students prepare for life. Students are making a big leap of faith and want to be sure they are doing the right thing.

“They also acquire life skills by learning to get out of their comfort zone and not many are emotionally ready to do that. I hand-hold them till they are ready to fly.”

To do this, she often has to meet the pupils’ parents to ensure they are ready to take the next step.

“The family plays a big role in making a career choice. Career goals are intertwined with life goals and your value system influences your choice of profession,” Mrs Menon said.

“When students come for career guidance, you realise they sometimes have underlying issues related to their identity. For instance, if they are obese, that impacts their self-confidence. Or if parents are in the process of a divorce, this could influence their attitude towards their goals.

“There have been cases of students facing some personal problems, or cutting themselves. With the student’s permission, I speak to the parents to get external intervention, if it is out of my purview.”

The Indian expatriate also regularly organises forums for school counsellors at the annual Gulf Education and Training Exhibition to discuss bullying, peer pressure, cyber addiction and other teenage issues.

Mrs Menon said her desire to help pupils stemmed from her background as a social worker for 10 years for child welfare NGOs in India.

After moving to the UAE in 1998, she first worked as a counsellor at the Indian High School, in Oud Metha, Dubai, where she helped to deal with bullying, academic and social pressures, personal issues and also assisted pupils in choosing further education.

She set up Counselling Point Educational and Social Services in 2004, which later was renamed Counselling Point Training and Development.

In the past 10 years, hundreds of school-leavers have approached her to study in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, India, Malaysia, Singapore and the UAE.

Many who went overseas have since returned to work in the UAE.

One of them is Emirati Abdallah Abualreesh, an investment analyst at the Emirates Investment Authority.

“Given the job market of the UAE, there is a huge demand for young, professional Emiratis in every arena,” said Mr Abualreesh, who graduated in business administration from California State University.

“In the UAE, clear career paths are provided and we can acquire great experience because of the country’s exposure to global institutions and markets.”

Mr Abualreesh said it was vital for school-leavers to seek advice from academic experts.

“These professionals have dedicated their careers to understand educational institutions and their requirements, so they will know what these institutions are looking for.

“A great deal of responsibility still lies with the candidate, but continuous guiding and monitoring by an expert is valuable.”

Initially, Counselling Point advocated universities and colleges overseas but, in recent years, it has been encouraging study in the UAE.

“Previously, 75 per cent of the students went back either to their home countries or overseas to study further. But as more institutions set up shop, students have more options to study here,” Mrs Menon said.

Yet choices continue to be limited. “A lot of courses, like library sciences, actuarial sciences, forensics and criminology, neurosciences or dietician courses, are still not offered here. We need more courses,” she said.

Counselling Point will organise its annual seminar, Headstart for Higher Studies, on September 19, where representatives from the Canadian embassy, British Council, the US embassy and Dubai International Academic City will meet pupils.

BIO box

Name: Rema Menon

Age: 51

Home city: Chennai, India

Job: Education Consultant, Counselling Point Training and Development

Family: Married with one son

Qualifications: Masters in medical and psychiatric social work, Madras University, India