Going after the job or career you want is all about taking risks, and for Jake Sirianni, a college student, RA, and president and general manager of Cable 8 Productions at Washington State University, he took a risk that paid off, big time.
By now, you’ve probably seen his remix of “Alphabet Aerobics,” where he superimposed himself on Daniel Radcliffe and rapped about interning at The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. To many, it appeared as a bold, and hilarious move—but for Sirianni, it was purely strategic.
“In early to mid-February, I looked up Fallon’s videos and sorted by most popular, which happened to be [that rap] feature,” Sirianni says. “I thought to myself, this might be the perfect way to tie in my love for music, video, and editing, and [possibly] get me an internship.”
After watching him get a “yes” from Fallon himself, it’s hard not to be admirable, or even envious of Sirianni. But what may have looked like a stroke of luck and overnight success in the week that the video went viral, was actually a project that had been in the making for two years.
Before posting his clip to Reddit and getting it picked up by Mashable, along with a stream of local TV stations, prior to getting contacted by NBC, Sirianni was just like any other hustler, intent on proactively working—and rapping—his way into a creative, competitive industry.
In name dropping influences like SNL‘s Lorne Michaels, VaynerMedia’s Gary Vaynerchuk, and Hamilton‘s Lin Manuel, it’s clear the young pro has tons of insight.
FindSpark CEO & founder Emily Miethner spoke with Sirianni about his experience making the video—from going the traditional and unconventional application route, sacrificing short term pleasures for long term success, and how friending his comedy heroes on Facebook inspired an idea, and project, that would change the course of his career.
Photo cred: youtube.com
When did you first get the idea to make this video? Did you know you wanted to work at the The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon before the video idea came up?
My family has a great sense of humor, so that definitely influenced me [and my interest in comedy] early on. But I’ve always admired Lorne Michaels, who’s the executive producer of SNL—which I’ve been obsessed with since 9th grade, and first saw in 1st grade. I really admire the institute of comedy that he’s created, so I’ve been a big fan for a while now.
I got interested in Conan and Jimmy in 2009. That’s when I had the first actual feeling of, wow, I’m interested in this career-wise. [Back then], in 2014, I was a senior year in high school, and I admired how much positivity Jimmy brought to the program, his enthusiasm. His night show [has since been] one of the most influential pieces of comedy, [next to] SNL.
The project started about a year and a half ago. I started noticing the tonight show’s writing team. They’re a very talented team. In December 2015 I came across John Haskell’s Facebook page; he’s currently sketch writer. I admire his writing comedy style and randomly friended him, and he accepted my friend request! It meant a lot. More friends of his popped up, and within the next few months, I had my comedy heroes accepting my requests on Facebook.
What were your plans for getting this in front of the right people?
In January 2016 I made a video parody of a sketch group and tagged [comedy writers I admired] on Facebook, and they responded by liking it! So I did three more of these types of videos. I wanted to build a connection without meeting them, so I took initiative by tagging them. I didn’t want to be creepy or excessive, so I did it 3 times in a year and a half, just to get a semi-foot in the door.
I wanted to add value but complimenting them, and honoring them. It was how an idea started; that I could reach people I never met in New York. So the idea for the video started a few months ago. I wanted to honor the writers that taught me so much.
A sketch in the styles of Haskell and Dan Opsal, writers on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
How many hours would you say you spent on the video?
I would work on the video from 11:00am to 6:00pm, three or so nights a week. I even worked while I was on vacation! I wrote it up in a week and a half. I spent about two weeks editing, five hours a day, about three hours of shooting. So in all, I’d say I spent 60-80 hours on the project.
What was your schedule like while you were also working on this video? How did you make the time for this project, and how did you find out when it went viral?
I started working on this project February 9th and honestly wrote down “26” on my hand to remind myself of the commitment [to the alphabet rap project] because I was so busy. I was actually 80% done by the time I filmed, but I wanted to make it perfect, before showing it to anyone else.
Two weeks ago or so, I finished on a Thursday afternoon and sent it to three people that I admire, for any critiques they may have had. I posted it to Youtube on Monday, March 20th, and posted it to LinkedIn, Facebook…and on Tuesday, March 21st it was picked up by Mashable. I ended up getting a call and interviewing with the Fallon team that same day.
I was actually studying for an exam Wednesday morning, March 22nd, when I got word that local TV stations had picked it up. The Tonight show was Wednesday night, and that day, I had three meetings for an RA position, engineering and theater class—and then I got a tweet from @FallonTonight saying “watch the show.” Jimmy offered me the job that night.
The definition of a #hustler – Sirianni didn’t let his crazy busy schedule keep him from completing his project
How did your plans differ from what actually happened?
The project had been my life and world for two months, so I was speechless that people were able to see what I saw; their reactions, receiving so much support from family, friends, and random strangers…
[But] I loved the journey as much as the end result. I had an absolute blast making the video, and would’ve been happy with [it getting] a couple of views. Just making this was nothing; even if it didn’t release I had two goals: create the video and receive the internship. Anything else was super extra and appreciated.
Photo cred: twitter.com/jakesirianni
Your rap mentioned your cover letter—did you apply traditionally online or through a recruiter in addition to making this video? Did you do that before or after producing the video?
I sent an application on February 13th. [Even though] I interned at a production company last summer, I knew that I was going up against thousands. I knew the competition. I knew how important it was to put myself out there.
By the time the application closed on March 15th, I hadn’t heard anything, or in the five days that followed, which is around the time I posted the video and it went out.
Without putting this video out there, I may not have gotten the opportunity.
What’s your advice for people who want to do something to stand out, but are afraid to fail or feel like they can’t find the time?
Last summer when I was applying for internships, I had a little bit of experience, but I was comfortable with quantity over quality. I applied to over 70 and only heard back from two people that reached out, but even with that fail rate, just being contacted at all opened world of possibilities.
For people who feel afraid, focus on the positive. Instead of focusing on what could go wrong, focus on working hard. As a content creator, I go by the notion that to create, is to do. I can’t be stagnant. I want to always be creating and doing more.
Also, find time. Find as much time as you can. I gave up TV and hung out with my friends less, because that was a sacrifice I was willing to make. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the things that make you happy in the short term, for long term success.
Photo cred: nbcrightnow.com
Sirianni is a role model to anyone who wants to go the extra mile to stand out in the job search. While we don’t recommend adding random industry leaders on Facebook, we do encourage hustlers to follow in Sirianni’s footsteps by keeping abreast of industry knowledge, and not paying any mind to the haters. While the video received over 2,000 up-votes on Reddit, it received tons of negative comments too, none of which Sirianni bothered to focus on.
“Hard work pays off,” he says, simply.
Case in point: You’ve got to have a great attitude and be willing to take the good with bad. Because he’s clearly such a kick ass #Hustler, we’re giving Sirianni free tickets to NYC’s installment of Hustle Summit on July 21, 2017!
For more on Jake Sirianni, check out his Instagram and Twitter via @jakesirianni and website www.jakesirianni.com.