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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

What Is “Rage Applying,” and Does It Actually Work?

photo of a gym coach wearing a yellow sweatband with an enraged expression and spit flying out of their mouth (against a light blue square with a yellow star in the corner and navy blue background)
Bailey Zelena; Camrocker/Getty Images

First there was the Great Resignation of 2021, where employees quit their jobs in record numbers (“Byyyyye!”). Then came 2022’s “quiet quitting,” or doing exactly what’s defined in your job description and firmly saying no to any extra responsibilities (“Oh, you want me to stay late to do data entry? Nah.”). Now, as we enter the new year, our TikTok For You pages are flooded with posts that evangelize “rage applying” as the surefire way to land a new position.

But what, exactly, does rage applying entail? And can this buzzy work trend actually help you land a better gig in 2023 and beyond?

What is rage applying?

Rage applying is when you’ve...Just. Had. Enough. Your current job makes you so angry that you fire off applications to any open positions you can find. Think: Clicking the “Easy Apply” button on everything remotely associated with your field and attaching a generic cover letter while you replay that infuriating conversation with your boss in your head again and again. That’s quintessential rage applying.

The term first popped up on TikTok in December, when user @redweez posted a video claiming they got an offer with a $25,000 pay bump when they applied for jobs after getting fed up at work. “This is your sign to keep rage applying to jobs,” the video says. It went viral and, in the weeks since, hundreds of other TikTokers have posted about their own experiences rage applying.

And while TikTok has dubbed this behavior “rage applying,” some career coaches say it’s simply a new term for a method applicants have used since…always.

“This has always been an approach to job searching,” says Muse career coach Cassie Spencer, host of the podcast Happenstance. “I think the biggest difference now is that the platforms we use to apply for jobs have just made it easier. And they’ve made it, in my opinion, too easy.”

Why do we have such an urge to rage apply?

Rage applying is rooted in strong, negative emotion—The Office’s Toby Flenderson was probably very familiar with this job search strategy. Maybe you’re dealing with a systemic issue, like having a toxic boss or being forced to return to the office after years of working from your living room. Maybe there was just a round of layoffs that were handled abysmally.. Or maybe your current position just isn’t meeting your needs.

Employees, especially Gen Z and millennials, are looking for companies that don’t follow the 20th-century corporate playbook of accruing PTO, working 100% in-office, and starting a job on a probationary period. “And not all companies or businesses are caught up,” says Muse career coach Angela Smith, who is also an HR executive.

It’s also not uncommon for employees to start rage applying after having one particularly rough day, like receiving less-than-flattering feedback from your manager or having a spat with the outdated software that crashed and erased a day’s worth of work. Spencer says that no matter what’s causing the emotion-driven rage applying, it can also be referred to as “panic applying.”

“It feels like we’re doing something” when we rage apply, Spencer says. “We are creating a solution to whatever problem we’re facing. You had a bad day at work, you’re hearing about layoffs, whatever is happening—that’s scary to us, and it’s creating all of that emotion.” And rage applying might seem like the perfect outlet to soothe your boiling blood and let off some steam.

So does rage applying actually work?

If you find yourself going on a rage-applying tear late into the night, don’t expect the same results as the TikToker who got a huge salary bump. Spencer says that despite casting a wide net, this indiscriminate approach rarely works.

“There’s no intention behind it,” she says. “Job seekers get into a cycle where they’re applying to multiple opportunities only to find out that they’re not opportunities they really want.” It’s not the right company, the right position, the right team, the right salary, the right benefits—or all of the above. “So we are applying to things that aren’t actually a fit for us as job seekers.”

The probability of exiting one rage-inducing work situation and entering another you’re equally unhappy with is just one risk of rage applying. Another drawback to the trend: The time you spend applying might be in vain because you’re likely not putting in the effort to build a persuasive case that would help you stand out. And you'll hardly be catching all your typos.

“You’re probably not presenting yourself in the best light,” Smith says. “If we’re coming at it from an emotional place, like, ‘I’m just going to apply to all of these jobs and just dump it out there,’ that’s not going to be your best work.”

That said, Muse career coach Andrea Gerson, founder of Resume Scripter, argues that while rage applying might not be the best strategy for landing your dream job, there are aspects of it that can help job seekers. Specifically:

  • Rage applying keeps “multiple pots on the fire” in terms of having many different opportunities open at once.
  • Rage applying keeps you from doubting your qualifications for a potential role.

“The main pillar of rage applying is to not even think about it,” Gerson says. “Don’t even think about whether you’re fully qualified—just throw your hat in the ring and apply. Not overly second guessing yourself and doubting your abilities, that’s one thing that is positive.” In that sense, the lack of inhibition could help you land a big pay raise or snag a fancy new title after all.

What can you do instead of rage applying?

Spencer says that instead of soothing the panic and anger you’re feeling, rage applying can actually build on that negativity and make you feel even more burnt out. She recommends slowing down and turning inward instead of submitting applications in rapid-fire bursts of anger.

“The first thing is to pause and recognize where the emotion is coming from, whether it’s rage, fear, anxiety, or something else,” she says. “Sometimes people are moving into this rage applying because they had a really crappy day at work and it’s an isolated thing. They maybe don’t actually want a new job; they just need some kind of relief from that experience.”

If you find that, yes, you actually do need to get out of your current toxic work environment, for example, Spencer says to plan productive ways to start your job search. Take the time to focus on yourself, talk through your grievances with colleagues and mentors, and determine what you really want (and need!) for your future.

“If the root of this rage is coming from not being happy in your current role, we want to identify what those things are. Is it the leadership that you have? Is it the specific job and tasks? Is it something else?” If you don’t know the answers to those questions, you might end up as full of rage at your next gig as you were in this one.

So take those steps to help you cope with the rage you’re feeling, turn it down to a low simmer, and—instead of allowing it to consume you and send you on an indiscriminate application binge—let it motivate you to find and land a job you actually want.