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4 Useful Tools No Inspirational Blogger Should Be Without

4 Useful Tools No Inspirational Blogger Should Be Without

Random Giant Hammer (and Good Dog) by Steph L..

    Photo by Steph L.

    Tools. We all have ’em. We all use ’em — or at least try to. It’s one thing to read a glossy list of “44 hot WordPress plugins!” or “25 ways to look for stock photos”, another thing to actually try them all. The best tools are delved into very deeply, and like Thor and his hammer, can at times be inseparable from their wielders. I’ve personally skimmed through 1,000s of tools over the years and regularly use a few dozen.

    But let’s focus further: what if you want to blog about inspirational, motivational, life-bettering stuff — like here on Lifehack? Over the past stretch of weeks, I’ve been refining what I use to craft my posts. Here’s my exceptional faves — only the best of the best — and I’ll share why they work for me. No offhand, brief mentions of “maybe you should try it out…”, just strong votes of confidence from firsthand experience.

    1. Compfight – Find heart-warming pictures faster

    Ah, ’tis a cliche to see radiant suns, wide-eyed babes (of both sorts), cute animals, and compulsory nature scenes preceding an inspirational post. But it isn’t without merit. Many of these pictures are sourced from Flickr’s wealth of Creative Commons-licensable material. What does that often mean? Great imagery for free as long as you provide proper attribution.

    I use Compfight. Why bother, since Flickr has a built-in search? Like the essence of many a “get it done” article, beauty in simplicity. Compfight is minimalist, lean, and search queries are more plentiful-per-page and easier to sort through than Flickr’s own search. As a result, I — and you — can easily click through a great image, drag-and-drop it into your blog editor (most support this), and with proper credit included, enhance your post in seconds.

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    Such as this match for “cat sun baby”, which isn’t quite what I had in mind, but would work well for one of those “How to deal with stress”-type posts:

    Joy Harjo Project with Poem by ittybittiesforyou.

      Photo by ittybittiesforyou

      One downside: Compfight doesn’t save search settings as reliably as I’d like. I asked Ryan (one of the creators) and he said it should, but I keep having to set the options.

      2. Windows Live Writer – Blog better

      That’s really at the core of WLW, you see. Maybe I should’ve posted this first because you can’t blog without a blog editor. Sure, there’s built-in stuff like the TinyMCE-based editor that WordPress uses, and many blog clients/platforms abound. What’s such a big win for WLW? It’s not singular, but I can think of several reasons why it comes ahead, which I’ve written about at length before. To sum up and save you time without bullet points:

      It’s free. It can use your blog’s style. Auto-links save you time. Rich media (videos!) is easy to embed without mangling code. Plug-ins add what you want but don’t have yet.

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      And surprisingly personal support for a Microsoft product — there’s a dev named Joe Cheng who frequently answers questions on the WLW board. He doesn’t seem to be as active recently, but he definitely helped solve some of my problems, enabling me to enjoy WLW more. A fine example of where incidental customer service has resulted in me singing praises many times over.

      Yes, I wish WLW were for Mac too. Yup, it’d benefit from custom fields support. Aye, I wish more blog themes (esp. some video-centric and magazine-format ones) were supported correctly. But WLW is one of those tools that, if it works for you, it works extremely well. And you don’t have to think about it — like they say about great software, it doesn’t get in your way. It lets you get your way. :)

      3. QuotationsBook – Notable quotables indeed

      Need some wisdom of the ages to prop you up? Support a point you’re making? Provide some much-wanted levity? Sound sage by referring to the old masters; there’s quotes all over the Internet and you just need to find them. QuotationsBook makes this very easy with a friendly interface. You can clip-and-save quotes for later retrieval, should you be dry for ideas.

      For example, a casual search for “inspiration” turns up this gem:

      “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” -Frank Tibolt

      Also, while it’s not as elegantly-designed or eminently searchable, WikiQuote is popular with many. There are copious quote-sites on the web, and my point is: get at least 1 fave and keep it close, so you can refer to wise words in seconds as needed. (Just don’t take them out of context.)

      4. popurls – Keep your imagination tank full

      There’s no shortage of inspiration on the Internet — that’s part of what’s so daunting, finding focus amidst the many to create your unique take. popurls is one of the original single-page aggregators, and among the best designed: it does many things well, mostly highlighting notable headlines from many top social media sites (including visual content blocks for Flickr, YouTube, and others), enabling you to rapidly scan for stories to pick up on. Many of them are, of course, related to life improvement.

      popurls will help you discover favorite new feeds to subscribe to, get early dibs on Internet memes spreading like wildfire, and keep you entertained. What’s more, it’s got a fair degree of customization, and if you login, you’ll see Recommended stories for your tastes — it doesn’t work exceptionally well yet, but it’s promising.

      I surf popurls daily so I’m both well-informed and laughing a lot. If that isn’t inspiration in itself, I don’t know what is.

      What are your essential inspirational tools?

      Before we close today, here is a gratuitous picture of a girl wearing rainbow arm-socks and her cat. It’s the one opportunity I’ll have to do such a thing:

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        Photo by Hayley_Bouchard

        Was that purely devoid of meaning? Not quite. It generated an emotional reaction, didn’t it? Which brings me to this:

        As obvious as water is wet, each of us has our own style. But there are many shared tastes, and being a passionate advocate for the tools we hold dear — as I do for the above — can benefit others greatly, appropriately inspiring your fellow lifehack devotees in the process.

        If you haven’t heard of some or all of the above and I’ve introduced you to something new which is useful + fun, bravo! If you know all the names but haven’t tried them, I encourage you to — and I only say this from personal experience. My general philosophy with tools is to go through as many as you’re interested in, and the ones which are truly useful will stick with you in the long-term.

        Let me know what your inspiration indispensables are in da comments!

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        Last Updated on March 14, 2019

        7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

        7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

        Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

        For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

        Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

        1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

        A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

        It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

        It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

        How it helps you:

        If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

        Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

        2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

        Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

        Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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        How it helps you:

        Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

        Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

        If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

        Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

        3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

        Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

        Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

        How it helps you:

        This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

        For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

        Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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        A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

        4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

        To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

        A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

        How it helps you:

        One word: hierarchy.

        All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

        In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

        If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

        5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

        Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

        Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

        How it helps you:

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        Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

        If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

        This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

        6. What do you like about working here?

        This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

        Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

        How it helps you:

        You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

        Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

        Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

        7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

        What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

        As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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        How it helps you:

        What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

        First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

        Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

        Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

        Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

        Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

        Making Your Interview Work for You

        Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

        Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

        More Resources About Job Interviews

        Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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