Not Knowing How to Write a Resume: Dr. Noor Ali

Not Knowing How to Write a Resume: Dr. Noor Ali


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My guest for Episode #79 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is Dr. Noor Ali, a physician from Bangladesh who struggled to find a job here in the U.S. She describes herself as a “passionate and strong-willed mother, wife, doctor, researcher, entrepreneur, and champion of women in science who want it all.”

In this episode, she'll talk about her resume writing mistakes and she'll talk about the role she has embraced as a health insurance advisor here in the U.S. Dr. Ali will talk about mistakes that entrepreneurs and other people make when it comes to health insurance. We'll also discuss opportunities for improvement in the U.S. health system and her views on those who say it's a mistake to “want it all” as a professional woman.

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Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)

Mark Graban (0s):
Episode 79, Dr. Noor Ali, physician surgeon, and health insurance advisor.

Nr. Noor Ali (7s):
My favorite mistake has been not knowing how to write a resume.

Mark Graban (17s):
I'm Mark Graban. This is My Favorite Mistake. In this podcast, you'll hear business leaders and other really interesting people talking about their favorite mistakes, because we all make mistakes, but what matters is learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over again. So this is the place for honest reflection and conversation, personal growth and professional success. Visit our website at For show notes, links, and more about Dr. Ali and her work. You can go to Our guest Today is Dr. Noor Ali.

Mark Graban (57s):
She is a doctor and a surgeon she's doing work these days as a health insurance advisor here in the us. It, she just describes herself as a passionate and strong-willed mother, wife, doctor, researcher, and entrepreneur, and she is a champion of women in science who want it all. So I guess we'll get a chance to learn more about what that means and more about her, but nor first off, thank you for being here today. How are you?

Nr. Noor Ali (1m 27s):
Yes. Wonderful Mark. Thank you so much for the opportunity and the honor to be on your show. I hope we can have a fun episode and, you know, offers them a good show for your listeners today. Yeah,

Mark Graban (1m 38s):
Well, I'm sure this is going to be a, this is gonna be fun and informative Dr. Noor's website, by the way, is And we'll make sure that that's in the show notes. So Noor, as we ask everybody here on the show, I know this question is not a surprise. You know, what is looking at your work and your career. What has been your favorite mistake?

Nr. Noor Ali (2m 1s):
Yes. So my favorite mistake has been, so I went to medical school abroad in my native country, of Bangladesh, and when I came back to the States for work, I did not know how to write a resume. So my favorite mistake has been not knowing how to write a resume and really not getting any opportunities for appropriate work in my field.

Mark Graban (2m 25s):
So Tom, tell us more about that. I mean, what, what sort of, I mean, I I'm, I'm guessing you had difficulty finding a position. How did you learn that was connected to your resume? What, what sort of mistakes were you making there?

Nr. Noor Ali (2m 38s):
Yeah, so when I, when I came back to the states, after my training abroad, my medical training intern in internal medicine and general surgery, there's a process for foreign medical practitioners to go through a licensing exam and process in order for us to practice in the states. So, as I was looking for work as a qualified, licensed international physician, I didn't know how to craft a resume that would, you know, speak to my skills at that level. So I was really not only was I not getting any appropriate work, the only responses I was getting was was for like, as a lawnmower and things like that. So when I, you know, for, for one of them, I recall telling them like, have you even taken a look at my resume?

Nr. Noor Ali (3m 22s):
You know, I'm a licensed physician and surgeon, what makes you think I'm qualified to mow lawns? And when I suppose I am, but you know, is there anything else that you have for me, you know, questions of that sort. So really, I just didn't understand the system didn't understand what was required and I was just not getting any work. Yeah.

Mark Graban (3m 41s):
Did you, at some point then get some coaching and some feedback that got your resume pointed in a better direction?

Nr. Noor Ali (3m 51s):
Not when it w not really, actually not. I, I still didn't understand what I had to do or where, what I was missing. You know, now looking back years later, understanding the system, the ATS system, how it screened the process flow, knowing all of that. Would've probably been a lot better at that time, but when I was going through it, I didn't even know enough what knowledge to seek out or who to go for help or mentorship to change my situation. That as a result, I was, you know, I ended up doing work that I was way I worked at a subway making sandwiches because I was literally marked not getting any work I even tried to work for as a nurse, as a nursing position, even though I was overqualified for that.

Nr. Noor Ali (4m 35s):
And even then I wasn't allowed work. That's how awful it was. And I just didn't know what to do about it. Yeah.

Mark Graban (4m 42s):
So, I mean, clearly you, you figured things out. Tell us a little bit more about that journey. I mean, did you become an entrepreneur because of those difficulties finding something that was a fit?

Nr. Noor Ali (4m 55s):
Yeah, I suppose so, so one of my main reasons for reaching out to you and, you know, we had a little call where I was kind of struggling to find out what would be a good topic. And I realized that that experience of not being quite qualified or overqualified for whatever positions I was getting and not being able to translate that properly on paper, I felt a much greater sense of self-worth. Then I was able to convey on that one sheet of paper. So I knew that I was capable of a lot more and I could do a lot more, but I had no one else to, to validate that. And I believe those rejections or that one blow after the other, ultimately led me to this path of entrepreneurship where I was like, well, screw it.

Nr. Noor Ali (5m 35s):
You know, if no one else is gonna to acknowledge the value that I'm giving myself here will let me take advantage. Let me take charge of that and let me carve my own path. So that mistake of not knowing how to write a resume and being overqualified for almost everything has led me to, to the entrepreneurship journey that I am on today.

Mark Graban (5m 56s):
Yeah. So can you maybe explain a little bit for the audience? I think people not real might not realize I don't have a real deep understanding of this, even though I've been around healthcare myself for 15 years, when somebody like yourself has this, this training and experience in another country, what happens then here coming to the U S it seems like some of that talent maybe goes to waste. There's not re reciprocity in the licensing across borders, is that right?

Nr. Noor Ali (6m 31s):
So the medical education is recognized if you go through like an equivalency program where you submit your transcript and your grades, and they match that with, you know, the courses and the grades and the system here, and ultimately you get an equivalency certificate, which states that yes, your education is acknowledged. It's accredited. Your degree in X country is equal to an MD, a doctor of medicine degree here, however, to practice medicine, you still have to pass the licensing exams. And the licensing exams are a series of exams that, you know, are administered to you. United States students here, medical students here, where they take it in, as they go through med school.

Nr. Noor Ali (7m 11s):
Now I've taken my version of my licensing exams, where I studied medicine, and I was way past that. And I was a practicing physician and surgeon. So for me to have to, it's not necessarily starting from square one, cause I'm not going back to school. But the first step of the licensing exam is assessing really basic medical sciences would just, which are things that I had learned six, seven years prior. You know, when I was at that time. So for there's a big disconnect with foreign physicians being active, licensed practicing practitioners and having to take exams and do well. You know, they're very competitive. So not just take it and pass it, you have to do very, very well assessing basic sciences, which is really like, I was like 18 years old when I, you know, studied that material.

Nr. Noor Ali (7m 54s):
So I really struggled. And it was a big challenge, not only coming to terms with losing that credibility and having to reidentify myself, but also feeling this, you know, my Eagle working against my other ego, knowing that, well, I'm a licensed physician, but yet I can't practice because I don't remember this one enzyme in the Krebs cycle, which I studied like seven years ago.

Mark Graban (8m 19s):
I don't remember ever grilling my, my doctor on their knowledge of the Krebs cycle. It seems like that's not the most relevant thing. It's not the most relevant thing to the practical practice.

Nr. Noor Ali (8m 31s):
And it, and it just did. The mindset is just so different. You know, when you're practicing medicine, you're thinking treatment and management and the, and the patient centric care who's in front of you. But when you're in medical school, you're memorizing steps and enzymes and numbers, and it's a lot of rope memorization. So that disconnect really, you know, to speak on behalf of all foreign medical graduates who are trying to make a living and trying to get established in the United States. It's, it's everything. It, you know, it's the crux of, of the struggle for us. Yes.

Mark Graban (9m 1s):
Now, is that something you still might pursue or are you, you found other professional pathways that you think will be fulfilling here,

Nr. Noor Ali (9m 11s):
Mark? I don't think I have a good answer for that deep in my heart. I still that's. I feel like that's my calling and that's what I was born to do, but I've taken a different turn and I'm very happy with where I am in my life right now. And I don't know if I can necessarily handle or juggle both or even want to. So I don't, I don't really know. I I'd love to, but I don't know if that's a practical or feasible for me at this stage.

Mark Graban (9m 36s):
Okay. Well, sure. So how did be curious to learn more? Let's, let's talk about the work you do related to health insurance, because that is, you know, for, for listeners outside the us. I know it's hard to get your head around the U S health system sometimes and what has to be navigated or the mistakes that people might make. And we can explore that here, but how did you move into that type of work? Like, are there certain types of people that you help navigate the health insurance market? Yeah,

Nr. Noor Ali (10m 8s):
Yeah, definitely. So I specialize in working with entrepreneurs and small business owners, really anyone who has to purchase or figure out their health insurance on their own. I just really help kind of draw out their options and figure out what's going to be best for them. My specialization in health insurance has medically underwritten policies, which really puts back into the equation. What Obamacare took out with the affordable care act in 2008, we essentially the younger and healthier you are the lower risk. You are to a health insurance company, and you can get better rates and better coverage. So this is significant for small business owners in the growth phase where growing, because having a health insurance premium that's tied solely to your income can be quite detrimental in the long run, especially if you're doing well.

Nr. Noor Ali (10m 56s):
You know, you can end up having health insurance premiums that are greater than your home mortgages and people don't, don't always love that. Right? And they sometimes end up foregoing it altogether. So what I'd like to come do is present a solution for that population that say, Hey, there's other things out there you probably just don't know about it. Let me help you kind of draw those options out and see what we can do.

Mark Graban (11m 18s):
So, and you know, even though I'm an entrepreneur, I have the benefit of getting health insurance through my wife who has a more traditional corporate role. So this, this is not something I've personally had to navigate. So I, I am really curious. And maybe you can elaborate on the situation where let's say somebody is really starting off they're, they're growing a business. They're not paying themselves, get a salary that their income is low. And then let's say a year or two later, the business starts really taking off. Is that then the trap that you were describing, if they have something that's tied to a percentage of income,

Nr. Noor Ali (11m 56s):
That's exactly right. That's exactly right. And there's two. And depending on the situation, I'll advise accordingly, you want to take advantage of the situation you're in and knowing is really half the battle. What I find mostly is they just don't know their options. They don't know what to do, and because it's so confusing or either they just don't understand it, they just end up saying, well, whatever, I'd rather just not even have health insurance, but just that to me, or, or I see a lot of entrepreneurs who are afraid to leave their corporate jobs and pursue their dreams and passions, because they're afraid of losing the benefits. And then I'm in a similar boat like you mark I'm with under my husband's corporate plan. And he's, we're very fortunate. He works for a very large corporation and we get amazing benefits. But if we didn't, this is something that I'd have to figure out for myself.

Nr. Noor Ali (12m 39s):
So here's a little advice for your listeners. If you're an entrepreneur and you are making, let's say less than 30, $35,000 a year, take advantage of the Obamacare or tax credits and subsidies because the government will help you they'll pay a portion of your premium because you have a lower income. However, as soon as you cross that mark, as soon as you cross that 35,000 mark, and you're losing that subsidy, you are going to get penalized not only in back premiums, the IRS will come back and take those premiums from you and your premiums are going to shoot up. So that's a time to, you know, pull out of the healthcare market and possibly look at private plans to see if that might serve you better serve you and your business better.

Mark Graban (13m 21s):
And so then you also help people navigate that if it does that apply to individuals, or let's say, if it's a small company, that's getting to the point where they do want to offer a health insurance plan to their employees, do you also help people navigate

Nr. Noor Ali (13m 35s):
That? Yep, absolutely. I do individuals, families and small businesses typically under 10, because then after 10 and then 50 that every market, the laws change and their options changed. So I like to work with under 10 and we can offer a lot of flexibility. And this is something else that a lot of small business owners don't know if you're growing, but you can't necessarily, you want to reward your team that helps you grow, but you can't necessarily afford to pay for health insurance for their whole family. Right? What you can do is just connect them to a resource like me and say, Hey, I can't give you health and trans, but please talk to her. Maybe you can figure out a solution for yourself. Maybe I can contribute 25% of your premiums or offer you a $200 a month stipend or credit, and you can figure out what policy works for you.

Nr. Noor Ali (14m 17s):
So those are some flexible options that I like to offer that a lot of small business owners don't consider .

Mark Graban (14m 23s):
And then I saw on your website, you know, there's this big question of, okay, well, what does this cost? So maybe you can explain a little bit that people who are looking for that advice don't have to pay. They don't pay you to

Nr. Noor Ali (14m 35s):
No, not at all. They don't pay anything at all. In fact, if you are even on a corporate plan and you just want to know, like, is this really my best option? Or is there a private plan that's better out there. I really encourage anyone and everyone to just have a conversation with me. Number one, it costs absolutely nothing. It's free. I consider myself very well versed in the, in the insurance industry. We have laws that change every week, guys and health insurance is governed by state, not by federal. So each state again has their own laws and bylaws. So I stay up to date and current on all of that, just so if you were just curious to know what your options are, I highly encourage a conversation with me. It doesn't cost a thing. And if I'm able to tell you that there's something out there that's better than what you have right now, all you'd pay for is really the benefits you sign up for.

Nr. Noor Ali (15m 22s):

Mark Graban (15m 23s):
So I, it sounds like there's a parallel when you're talking about the laws changing and the market changing all the time. I've, I've heard that anymore. A physician can't possibly keep up with all of the new research and medical knowledge. That's, that's coming out. You certainly shouldn't be expected to memorize all of that. That sounds like the health insurance market is just as challenging then

Nr. Noor Ali (15m 48s):
It, it really is. I thought I would be getting away from a world of studying when I went from medicine to, to insurance. But Nope, it's, it's just as much, if not more so constantly changing laws and it's a different, it's, it's a, it's a business. And then, you know, finance world, which is quite different from the medical world, but just as much upkeep in terms of, you know, continuing professional and medical education.

Mark Graban (16m 12s):
Are there any other common mistakes that come to mind that individuals or small companies make when it comes to shopping for insurance or choosing an insurance plan? What would are some of the most frequent things that you try to help people avoid?

Nr. Noor Ali (16m 29s):
Yeah, I would say for young healthy individuals, one of the biggest mistakes that I see is choosing for a high deductible, low premium plan. I think that's something like that may work for, let's say home or auto insurance, where you're not really expecting to use your insurance, but you have to have it. So you just want to pay the least out of pocket. But when it comes to health insurance, that's really not the right way to think, especially if you're young and healthy. So what that means, if you're a young individual on a low premium, high deductible plan, you're paying your premiums every month. And then God forbid in the very unlikely situation that you fall ill or something happens, you then have a very high deductible to meet and high deductible.

Nr. Noor Ali (17m 12s):
We, we say, let's say $10,000. So not only did we pay the insurance company, our premiums every month, now that we have to actually use our insurance for something big you again, as the individual is coming out of pocket. So that's something I like to educate on, especially for young professionals, don't go for the high deductible. You want to choose a little to nothing, no deductible. Yeah.

Mark Graban (17m 31s):
Because somebody who's young might think there's low risk, but I imagine if you're young, we all know people who have been young who have either unfortunately had a major accident or a serious illness, and those then become catastrophic, really expensive. So it seems like it might low percentage of something going wrong. I'm being an engineer and a statistician here. I'm thinking, well, the expected value of something bad happening. Yeah. That's, that's, that's something that people probably don't take into account. Well

Nr. Noor Ali (18m 5s):
Enough. Yes. Well, it's actually the basis. The basis of this advice is actually that statistic that there is quite actually a low chance that something will go wrong. But in when, if, and in that event, when something goes wrong, you want to make sure that your insurance company is actually stepping up first because of all the premiums you've made, you know? Yeah.

Mark Graban (18m 25s):
So I'd like to explore a little bit, well, for one for background, I, I should have asked you up front, what was your specialty as a physician and surgeon? Sure.

Nr. Noor Ali (18m 35s):
So when we, in countries in developing third world countries like Bangladesh, where we have a very high population and very, very low resources, we are trained in absolutely everything. So my training is internal medicine, general surgery and OB GYN. And my special interest areas are actually women's reproductive medicine. So most of my experience that's outside of my formal training is actually in, you know, in gynecology and, and ops obstetrics.

Mark Graban (19m 5s):
And there are so back in Bangladesh, have there been great strides in recent years when it comes to measures like infant mortality or maternal mortality.

Nr. Noor Ali (19m 16s):
Thank you so much for asking. Yes. I'm so proud of this actually, because bond, which happens to be one of the, the top countries with the greatest improvements in public health and infant mortality and maternal mortality are the two biggest markers that demonstrate, or that illustrate a state of a country's public health status.

Mark Graban (19m 35s):
Okay. Well, that's great to hear. And we, we still have, you could tell us more about this. You feel like still great strides to be made here in the United States. When people take a look at the, the well-known figure that healthcare in the United States is the world's most expensive. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean we have the world's best outcomes. And unfortunately that includes some of those same core measures are around infant mortality, prenatal care, maternal health, maternal, and child

Nr. Noor Ali (20m 8s):
Health care. Yep, absolutely. Yeah, you're right. And actually there's more and more, I know quite a few journalists working on this, Elizabeth Rosenthal was a Harvard grad, a Harvard medical doctor who's who writes a lot about this, that when we keep saying, well, healthcare system is broken, it's broken. What does that really mean? How did it get this way? So she writes a series that's good. That goes really in depth into it and compares other countries, healthcare systems and costs to try to identify, well, what's the problem, what's the grassroots problem and what can we do to fix it?

Mark Graban (20m 39s):
Yeah, yeah. I've read her work. She's she's really good. And, and there's also the challenge looking at the United States, there are disparities in different groups within the United States. So there's still a long, a long way to go a lot of room for improvement and providing people access to care in, in different ways is of course a big part of that.

Nr. Noor Ali (21m 1s):
Yes, yes, absolutely. Mark.

Mark Graban (21m 4s):
So, you know, I'm part of your bio in, in the way you describe yourself. I think, you know, there's two parts of this. We can explore here before wrapping up one is being a champion of women in science. And then the part of that sentence, I'm a champion of women who want it all. So maybe, you know, first off, can you, can you speak to, you know, the importance of, of being a champion for, for women who are interested in science or pursuing this at different ages?

Nr. Noor Ali (21m 33s):
Yeah, absolutely. I think the, the category of, of pursuing science as an educational trajectory puts you on a different level, because what, when you're with, with peers in a scientific background, there's an edge of competitiveness. There's, you're already bucketed into a, you know, a higher intelligence group. And I think those factors automatically, you know, shape not, not just perspective of, of how you view life, how you view challenges, how you try to, you know, achieve success, what success means to you. So I think that just being a woman of being a woman in science, those are just really core layers of identity that shaped me for who I am.

Nr. Noor Ali (22m 16s):
And I know that other women in science, when they read that they know exactly what I'm talking about. Like having that background, what that means. Yeah.

Mark Graban (22m 24s):
So it sounds like you're saying that even if science is not the end point in terms of a career and that the education provides a lot of benefits that carry over into other careers or other aspects of it.

Nr. Noor Ali (22m 39s):
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it provides an advantage, a great advantage. Having a background as a scientific background, I found that, you know, just because of my medical background and having this extensive clinical experience, although I'm not utilizing it on a day-to-day basis for my business right now, it makes so much, so many things easier for me. You know, I don't have to think twice. I don't have to Google something because I automatically, I was like, well, I went to med school. I don't have to review this. You know, I know how to do this. I know what medication this is. So, you know, having that background and the foundation educationally, I think really is empowering. Yeah.

Mark Graban (23m 17s):
So then the other part of that, that sentence, women who want it all, or women in science who want it all, what, what are your thoughts on that? Or, you know, some people, I mean, you know, can't speak to this really as, as a man, but I hear conversations of, of, of sometimes there's debate around, can you really have it all as a woman, as a mistake to want it all? That's not me saying that, but just pose question. What are your, what are your thoughts on that? Yeah,

Nr. Noor Ali (23m 48s):
And that's a, that's a great point. And I think that that portion of, of how I describe myself didn't really come about until last year when I became a mother, I had a son and that's when the all came into play, really understanding that being, you know, motherhood as a value family, as a value in addition to education and career as a value, that's what I mean by all, you know, being able to be a mother and serve my family, make sure they're all taken care of. And they're happy as well as me feel, feeling fulfilled in my career because I've achieved my milestones and what I define to be a success. So I'm grateful to you Mark for pointing out that statement, because there's so much in those words, you know, a woman in science, a woman who wants it all, there was so much depth to it.

Nr. Noor Ali (24m 35s):
And I feel like if you're a woman or a mom in science who craves it all once at all, has it all, you know exactly what I mean and what I'm talking about and the challenges that come with it. Yeah.

Mark Graban (24m 46s):
And, you know, I think there, so a lot of things to be sorted out in society in terms of kind of, you know, old workplace rules or habits or guidelines that were developed for a male workforce, a case in point, my home state of Michigan, this is outside the realm of science a little bit, but there was a, a woman in the Michigan state legislature who had a child. And there are absolutely no guidelines for her to take maternity, leave no guidelines for her to be able to vote or participate remotely. And I think it's just interesting. It just goes to show that we still have a lot of things to sort out, to, to give women, you know, I don't know if opportunity is the right word and I will say accommodation, that might be a mistake, but to provide support and to make sure that we're not putting barriers in the way of women pursuing careers, whether that's science or public service and government.

Nr. Noor Ali (25m 49s):
Right. Exactly. I agree. There's a, there's a lot to do. And a lot of it is, is not just, you know, it might involve undoing, you know, undoing mindset and mentality, as well as undoing infrastructure. You know, let's turn the storage room into a breastfeeding room for someone who might need privacy if they have a little one at home.

Mark Graban (26m 8s):
And I think, you know, one of the, this might be obvious, but I think organizations are still figuring this out of making sure women's voices are involved in decisions and policies cause otherwise know I'll be the first to admit I would have blind spots to certain issues.

Nr. Noor Ali (26m 29s):
You're right. And that, and I don't think we should blame organizations or point fingers or be upset or angry because like you said, we're all still figuring it out. And I think a good place to start, you know, let's say an organization has just, just male leadership and they understand the pressure and the need and they want to make a change, but they just don't know how I would say, start at your office, start at who your employees are and just ask, Hey, what can we do to support you better? You know, do you need a private space for pumping or can we, you know, what resources can we give you to help you be a better mother? What have you felt unsupported at meetings? Or, you know, things like that. You know, if you don't know where to start, just look around you and ask specifically the employee that you're trying to serve instead of maybe trying to copy another company.

Nr. Noor Ali (27m 15s):
And then the female at your workplace is still disgruntled because you haven't served her needs. So I would say that's a good place to start.

Mark Graban (27m 23s):
Well, that sounds like really good advice. And as someone who gives advice in the realm of health insurance north, thank you for sharing your different thoughts and experiences and perspectives with us. So again, our guest today has been Dr. Noor Ali. You can find her website, and there will be links in the show notes and really want to thank you for taking time to be here as a guest today. Really, really appreciate it.

Nr. Noor Ali (27m 51s):
Yes. Thank you so much, mark. It was such an honor. I had a wonderful conversation and I appreciate your time as well. Thank you so

Mark Graban (27m 57s):
Much. You're welcome. Thanks again for show notes, links and more, you can go to And I hope this podcast inspires you to reflect on your own mistakes, how you can learn from them or turn them into a positive I've had listeners tell me they've started being more open and honest about mistakes and their work. And they're trying to create a workplace culture where it's safe to speak up about problems, cause that leads to more improvement and better business results. If you have feedback or a story to share, you can email me And again, our website is

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.