Feeling stuck and unappreciated at work? Want to work somewhere with a higher salary, better work-life balance and a boss you can actually stand? Maybe you’ve just had a really bad work day. Your first instinct might be to fire out applications to every relevant job listing you see—known as “rage applying”—but that might not be the smartest move.
Rage applying is one of the new terms relating to workplace frustrations that has become part of the vernacular on social media, where other terms like “quiet quitting,” “act your wage,” and “quiet firing” have also spread. But the actual practice of rage applying isn’t new and it could be hurting your chances of finding a job that better meets your needs.
In the face of mass layoffs in industries including Big Tech, and concern about an impending recession, the job market has been fairly resilient. The U.S. saw a 50-year low unemployment rate this January, and 311,000 jobs were added to the U.S. labor market in February.
A high number of openings may be enticing for those unhappy at work, but career advisors say it’s important to consider what you really want from a job and to navigate opportunities with those intentions in mind.
“A lot of the rage applying I’ve seen in my clients before they came to me, has gotten them out of the frying pan and into the fire,” career coach and author Maggie Mistal, tells TIME. “It’s a reaction against something rather than being bigger-minded about it saying, ‘this is a bad situation, but what would I love?’”
What is rage applying?
The phrase “rage applying,” took off on TikTok to describe what some workers have been doing when feeling miserable or overlooked in their jobs. Some workers who feel like they’re constantly being passed over for promotions, micromanaged, spread too thin or stressed out in other ways by their jobs say they are applying for whatever roles they can just to get out of their current situations, and ending up with better paid positions and better conditions.
“Some people need to be forced out of a bad situation,” Mistal says. “They might find, ‘my skills are really in demand,’ ‘I got a lot of responses back’ or ‘wow, these salaries are higher than what I’m making.’”
The pandemic has also had an influence on younger workers, many of whom left jobs in droves amid the Great Resignation. This period also ushered in remote and hybrid work, and saw many workers unionizing.
“During the pandemic, employees got a taste of freedom, flexibility and advocacy. That mixed with some fear, about losing their job, people are reacting out of anger or fear, and just applying places,” Maureen Falvey, lead coach at Strong Training & Coaching, a professional development firm, tells TIME.
Why rage applying isn’t always a good idea
In a hot job market like today’s, many jobseekers are having no problem getting offers, but they may not be better off if they end up in a similar role with the same problems.
“The downside that I see is that wherever they go in the next place, whatever was upsetting to them, whatever they didn’t deal with, is still going to be there,” says Falvey.
Data show that employers are hiring quickly, giving jobseekers little time to make a decision on whether to accept an offer. A ZipRecruiter survey that analyzed the experiences of 2,550 jobseekers in late 2022 found that half of those surveyed heard back from the employers who went on to hire them within just three days of applying for the job. ZipRecruiter notes that the historical standard has been for employers to reach out to applicants after about one to three weeks to set up an interview.
Not everyone is lucky to end up with offers, which can be disheartening, Mistal says. “They might not hear back, or only hear rejections, just because it’s a mismatch, not because they aren’t good or valuable in the marketplace,” she says.
“Sometimes I think people say, ‘I’ll just make sure my resume matches the right words in the job description,’” Mistal adds. “I think there’s an opportunity to soul search and get some bigger picture perspective, and not just package yourself.”
Falvey notes that part of job satisfaction involves advocating for your needs. “Instead of walking around with resentment, frustration, or feeling like you need to quit, what do you need to stay?”
What you should do instead of rage applying
Talk to your employer: Falvey recommends that before going on a rage applying spree, give your current job another chance by communicating your needs openly. “Most of the time, we’re walking around frustrated, and our boss doesn’t know what we need,” she says.
Prioritize what you really need: If you decide leaving your current role is best for you, figure out what you hope to achieve by moving. For some, the motivation to apply for other roles may be financial, for others it may be about advancing in your career or making a lateral move. Some may want more flexibility. Take the time to figure this out so you’re pursuing the right roles, Falvey says.
“The best thing we can do when we feel pressed for time, whether it’s financially or otherwise, is to still go through the exercise of what your values are, and what you want to prioritize,” Falvey says. “Whether it’s getting a job quickly, getting a job that is one level up or having a decent boss who’s empathetic, know what is your number one priority.”
Tailor your applications: Rage applying often involves applying indiscriminately, your chances of getting a better job are higher if you take the time to individualize each application, with cover letters and resumes that are tailored to specific positions. Career advisors encourage job-seekers to focus on quality rather than quantity of applications, to land the best roles. You could also consider learning new skills to help your chances.
Network: Many job openings aren’t even posted online. Checking in with your network about potential openings or following up with contacts about positions you’ve already applied for can be crucial. Friends, former colleagues and industry connections can also provide valuable insight into company culture that an online job posting wouldn’t.
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