WTF   //   January 26, 2023

WTF is rage applying and why is Gen Z doing it?

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Before remote working became so prolific, a bad day at work could sometimes culminate in a person impulsively quitting, packing a box of their personal items and storming out of the office.

Today, with remote and hybrid working becoming the norm, there is a new term at play: “rage applying.” This refers to the method of mass applying for a range of jobs online and is often prompted by an individual feeling unhappy at work — whether it’s because they’ve been overlooked for a promotion, or just feel generally unrecognized and under appreciated.

Whether or not this latest workplace term sticks in the months to come is yet to be seen. But it’s currently on the rise among young professionals who feel strongly about not putting up with a workplace that they are unhappy with.

Similar to quiet quitting, the quick decision to apply to a number of new jobs is rubbing veteran workers the wrong way, and they are warning people to think before acting. They propose the question: Is the grass always greener? 

We spoke to workplace experts to learn more about rage applying.

What exactly is rage applying?

We all have bad days at work, but sometimes it is a day that is so bad or disappointing that it feels like the best course of action is to finally look for a new job. That might mean pulling up job boards and applying, without much thought, to a number of jobs in a short period of time. 

This trend has been on the rise, largely thanks to young professionals on TikTok encouraging the practice because it can lead to a huge salary boost or more learning opportunities at the next place of employment. Not just that, but with mass layoffs still in full swing, there has been a rise in anxiety-induced job applying with applicants motivated by a fear of being laid off, as opposed to dissatisfaction with their existing role or company. But, similar to rage applying, this behavior involves a scattergun —rather than carefully considered — approach to job applications.

Some experts are concerned that this kind of knee-jerk reaction, where someone is running from a job rather than running toward a particular one of choice, may result in a person holding a job that isn’t right for them long-term. “You have to be very thoughtful before you make any decision about getting a new job, especially with the economy we’re in now,” said Jack Kelly, founder and CEO of staffing and recruiting firm The Compliance Search Group. “You might fall into an offer, but you do it too quickly, and you’re just escaping from where you are, but not really thinking about where you’re going to,” he added. 

Is it better to take a beat and see the larger picture?

For some, this might be the better course of action. Economic uncertainty mixed with the firehose of layoff announcements are giving rise to this wave of applying quickly to a lot of jobs. Fear about being laid off can be infectious, regardless of whether a company appears (to its employees) to be in good fiscal health or not. And with mass layoffs having dominated the news headlines for the last several months, this anxiety is starting to spill over to other workforces. 

Whether there are layoffs happening at other companies or you don’t feel you have been recognized well at work, emotions can run high. Some may resort to the “flight” over “fight” mechanism and quickly find another job where they may be happier or feel more stable. 

"In the absence of a narrative from the employer, people will assume the worst, when people assume the worst, they go to doom, doom leads to anxiety, leads to anxious applying."
Paul Rubenstein, chief people officer at Visier.

“You may end up regretting your decision to quit as we saw with the great resignation,” said workplace happiness expert Jenn Lim, CEO of Delivering Happiness, which offers culture and coaching services. “My advice would be that, instead of going to fight or flight, go to freeze.”

One option: talk to your manager about any latent fears regarding job security and see if they can provide any helpful assurance. “In the absence of a narrative from the employer, people will assume the worst, when people assume the worst, they go to doom, doom leads to anxiety, leads to anxious applying,” said Paul Rubenstein, Chief People Officer at people analytics company Visier.

Lack of, or miscommunication is often the root cause of problems — whether it’s in a personal relationship or in a workplace environment among colleagues, or between leadership and the workforce. Focusing on how to communicate through any concerns, just as one might attempt to in a personal relationship, is key, stressed Kelly. 

Lim advised not to apply to dozens of new places without taking the time to consider what you want out of a career, what your values are and how you want your next workplace to be set up. 

Can rage applying be successful?

The reality is, rage applying is not as risky or rushed as it may appear. And some experts say staying frosty in this way is actually a smart move. 

While the decision to rage apply might happen over an hour or so and be sparked by a particularly bad day, it’s not usually the result of just one bad day, but an ongoing sense of unhappiness in a role. Plus, the actual decision to take another job is one that people have ample time to consider. So while it might start out as what seems like a thoughtless decision to apply, deciding to take a new job is when folks can really buckle down and ask if it’s what they want and whether it’s the right kind of organization for them.

"You're always much better off knowing where you stand in the marketplace, and how your skills measure up to what employers need and want. You are the CEO of your own career."
Liz Ryan, CEO and founder of Human Workplace.

There are a number of benefits if someone does decide to rage apply. For one, you could end up with a major salary boost and a job where you are happier. While it’s a risk to take a new job instead of staying at one you know well, it might be one that is worth it for some people. For instance, one professional wrote on LinkedIn that rage applying was the best career decision of her life

“You don’t have to take a job just because it’s offered, but going out and interviewing keeps you sharp,” said Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, a coaching and consulting firm. “There is no benefit to putting your head in the sand.”

She said that workers are always better off knowing where you stand in the marketplace and how your skills measure up to what employers need and want.

“You are the CEO of your own career,” said Ryan. “We need to recognize that and internalize it. It’s better to have your resume ready all the time and to interview numerous times of the year.”

This practice only increases an individual’s marketability. “If you stay in your cubicle or at your home office, then unfortunately that has very little bearing on what happens next in your career,” said Ryan, who calls it “falling asleep in your career.”