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What is "rage applying" and why does it feel so damn good?

Updated: 3 days ago

Let's say you're having a really crappy day. Maybe it's been a crappy week, month, or even year. And an email comes along that just pushes you over the edge. "Fuuuuuuccckkkk this," you think to yourself, "I am so over this place."

You immediately pull up LinkedIn (because this is the first place everyone goes when they're ready to burn it all to the ground) and start searching for new opportunities. You skim through a few that seem fine ("at least it's not here!" you snark to yourself) and you prepare to show your company what it feels like when they don't have you to kick around anymore.


"Rage applying," as I like to call it, is when you are so sick of the shit going on with your current job that in the heat of the moment, you mouse-pound your way to opening a new tab (incognito, obvi) and begin applying for any and all jobs that a) seem remotely interesting, but more likely b) are similar to what you do now, yet their main appeal is that they aren't at this place.

So let's start by identifying WHY you hit the rage apply state.

It comes down to dissatisfaction with how you're spending your time. The first thing anyone entering the rage place says is, "I don't get paid enough for this." As if there's some magical number that will make your frustrating work circumstances worth it. Money-versus-pain is not a new concept, but when how you are spending your time begins to be out of alignment with what brings you joy, compensation is usually the #1 thing people reaching the rage state focus on. When you truly love what you're doing in your career, the money part doesn't matter as much. But when your job begins feeling like you're sliding down a razor blade into a pool of freshly-squeezed lemon juice, you better believe you're thinking about the money that's landed you there.

If you're any sort of smart professional, when you find yourself experiencing prolonged discomfort or unhappiness, you're going to start communicating what you need to be successful in your role. That means documenting what is making you unhappy at your current job and preparing solutions to offer to those who can help with the situation. And it should never be that you need more money to deal with the pain. You need to resolve the pain, and that starts with you. After all, if you say you have a problem, you need to also offer a solution. Otherwise you just look like a complainer. So, put together the facts, and take steps to demonstrate a willingness to improve the situation so you can be the best for your employerand yourself. If you're at that rage level and you didn't make any effort to identify why there's suffering, come up with solutions, or offer proactive changes in a professional way... well then you need to work on yourself first, boo boo. Take it as a lesson, because unfortunately, in most cases, once you're at the rage applying level, your current sitch probably isn't salvageable.

So let's say you do all that. You document, communicate, and offer solutions to resolve the pain. You do this professionally and thoughtfully, leading with the business as the beneficiary of your plan to make things better. And nothing changes. For many people, you hit rage level when your attempts to share your needs and work to improve the situation don't make a damn bit of difference. You are still suffering. How frustrating is it to tell someone you're hurting and there's no relief in sight? You probably feel ignored, unimportant, devalued, and yes, angry. Angry that you work hard and do your best and the balance of reciprocity is firmly off... and seems likely to remain that way.

You simmer, simmer, simmer along until that one thing... that one little thing... sets you off. Your boss telling you he needs a last minute presentation that he forgot to mention earlier this week... receiving an email to schedule a meeting when the person emailing you could have, oh I don't know, just scheduled the meeting... having to prepare yet another weekly report for the executive team who has no idea what you do or why, but they certainly will have opinions on it... the list goes on and on.

We have all been there. And you know what? Rage applying feels DAMN GOOD. Let's explore why.

Reason #1 Rage Applying Feels Good:

It's Active

You're taking action after too long of not being satisfied. Movement after feeling trapped and stuck just feels good. It's taking control of your destiny! Even if it's just for this one moment... you're getting out some of that frustration by making moves to change up your circumstances. Because you know what? The only person you can change is you.

Studies have shown, time and time again, that most people leave jobs because of their managers. Not for the lure of more money or the fancy title, but because the people they work for/with are so misery-making that you just gotta get out of there. If this sounds like you, and you've tried to make it work with little to no improvement, you probably are the #1 type of rage applier there is.

Reason #2 Rage Applying Feels Good:

You're Acknowledging Your Worth

It's easy to just go along to get along. You do your job (and you do it damn well) and when things are good, the days fly by. But you know what? There likely will come a time when you start to see the writing on the wall. Maybe it's a shift in management that lands you a truly awful boss or person in leadership. Perhaps the company is stagnant and there isn't a lot of opportunity to move up. It could be that the leadership seems to think that growth needs to happen from the outside, so there's little upward mobility from among the ranks. Or maybe it's that you are pigeonholed in your current role and that's all you're going to be there. Trust me, I have seen all these things happen in organizations.

When you desire to grow in your career, and you can't seem to do this where you're at, it's easy to get ragey. The worst thing for an ambitious person's soul is when their value isn't seen, acknowledged, and appreciated. Asking for what you want is a good way to try to resolve your frustration before it gets to be overwhelming, but if your worth continues to be overlooked or ignored, that rage is gonna come on fast and it's gonna burn hot.

Reason #3 Rage Applying Feels Good:

You're Getting Third Party Validation

When you see your skills listed as been desired by other companies, you think, "Oh wow, I'm in demand!" After a long time being compressed by your current job situation, it's easy to feel like you've lost your mojo. You can start to believe that you're only good at the thing you're doing now and no one else will want you, so you just need to keep suffering. (PS this happens in relationships too!)

But it's a lie. It's a subconscious limiting belief that you need to acknowledge... and then release. When you rage apply and you start getting responses, oh man that feels great! You can see the light dawning... "You like me! You really really like me!" (Ten points to Gryffindor if you get that reference). When companies ask to interview, you have to evaluate that opportunity again and decide if it's right for you. Because it's likely that they're coming at you when you're not in the same rage-fueled space, so you may have a different mindset. That role that seemed amazing through your fire-filled eyes may actually look not-so-stellar upon second glance.

So, how do you navigate the space between rage applying and potentially stepping into change?

Here are my tips to make "rage applying" work for you in the long run:

1. Get it out, but don't rage apply to a job you are actually excited about when you're "hot". Yes, you can dust off your resume and prepare your cover letter, but don't submit it just yet. Send yourself a link to the job, keep a draft of your application/cover letter, and come back to it when you've calmed down a little bit. When you're angry, you're full of adrenaline that can cause you to make mistakes. You don't want your application to be tossed aside because of typos or thoughtless errors. Make sure you read the job posting again thoroughly before applying; sometimes they ask for specific things to weed out applicants who don't read the entire posting. For example, a specific subject line or to address a question in your cover letter. When you're pissed, you're likely to miss little details like this and you may get overlooked in your haste.

2. Spend time getting clear on what you want... and what you don't want.

This one is super hard to do when you're raging out. Use that energy in the moment to jot down the things you do and don't want in a role, in a company, in a boss, etc... and hold on to it. The Universe is always conspiring to bring you what you desire, but you have to be really clear with that. Be sure to think deeply about this: what will make you fulfilled in your job? You spend at least a third of your time working, so what is it that drives you and brings you satisfaction? Don't focus on money or titles. Those won't make you happy in the long run. Focus on purpose and what fills your soul, what brings you joy. For me, I want the time I spend working to actually help people and improve their lives. I like seeing direct results from my strategy, planning, and actions. That's why I love consulting with content creators and when I worked in-house, it was my favorite part of creating digital programs for Deepak Chopra. If you ask the Universe for money or title, it will serve those things up to you... but I can promise you that if you accept the first thing that comes along offering that, you won't be happy. So get clear on what actually drives you.

3. Focus on what you're moving towards, not what you're running from.

This was a hard one for me to remember during the times when I desired to make changes to my work life. When I was ready to leave a job running the marketing department for a bar trivia company, I knew that I wanted a position where what I did mattered to people and actually helped them, and I wanted the title I deserved, but was unable to get at my current organization. (It's hard to move up when you have a new boss every six months, and the culture had devolved into a nepotistic boys' club. Oy.) Senior leadership roles in a mission-based organization seemed hard to come by, and I soon became lured by jobs that paid well but were not within the scope of my career intentions... because what was really happening was I started running away. In fact, I got through about four interviews with a medical device company when I stopped myself and thought... this isn't what I said I wanted. And it's a lateral move, which meant I'll likely be stuck at this level for another 2+ years. Hard as it was, I had to recuse myself from the interview process so near the finish line because I needed to stay true to my intention. A few months later, the opportunity that served my desire showed up. The Universe brought me an option that wasn't at all what I expected, but it checked the boxes of meaningful work and the title I deserved... so I took it. And it completely changed my life and career trajectory. But waiting and staying strong in a place that no longer served me? That was really tough!

And so dear friends, rage applying serves a purpose. You let off steam, you're opening yourself up to something new and fresh, and you're (hopefully) setting boundaries of what is and is not acceptable in your work life. In the wise words of Seneca the Younger, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." (He's the lead singer of that band Semisonic, right?) So use your rage to further your ambitions, yet use it wisely. Know your worth, but do everything in your power to professionally resolve that which brings you misery. In some cases, the only way through is out.

And no, the juice is not always worth the squeeze. So please stop filling that razor blade pool, will ya? It's all ouchie in there.

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