Career Interview: Shannon Molloy
Our first Shannon experience was in 2010 – and whilst we were all much younger and bushy tailed you immediately knew that Shannon was going to have an interesting career!
Whilst there were a few other random beers and projects over the years, we reconnected properly two years ago, when Shannon kindly agreed to chair the first Sydney generationYOU conference.
During his opening speech he compared himself to a cruise director, helping everyone to have fun and make sense of the day; however his greatest contribution was his own journey and his incredible ability to foster relationships and build networks.
We approached Shannon to chat about his career and how he has managed to create the amazing opportunities he has enjoyed over the past decade.
Q1 > Tell us a bit about your current role and what led you here.
Shannon: I’m a content editor for Amazon, working specifically on the artificial intelligence personality Alexa. I can’t go into any specifics about my role unfortunately but it’s very exciting and loads of fun.
Before this gig, I was a national writer for News Corp Australia, writing across all of the company’s newspapers and websites. Over my career, I’ve worked as a journalist, communications manager, digital strategist and publicist.
Q2 > At the centre of most (if not all) your roles, is writing – whether it is for print, social media, TV or now home devices, there is a constant ‘content’ element. Yet you somehow manage to make it span across various industries like PR, politics, not for profits, tech and entertainment.How did you make these great opportunities happen?
Shannon: I once had a recruiter tell me my resume was a bit “schizophrenic” on the face of it, and that I needed to completely rework to emphasise that there’s a common theme throughout each of the roles I’ve held. And it’s ‘content’. Or, as I’ve taken to calling it, ‘storytelling’.
When I was a journalist, I told stories. Obviously. When I was in consumer PR, I told stories – or rather, sold my clients’ stories to storytellers. When I managed communications for a charity – you guessed it, storytelling. When I ran the digital strategy for then-Premier Anna Bligh, it was, at its core, about telling stories. And fast forward to my role now, and in a very – very – unique way, it’s about storytelling.
I suppose I found myself in those various roles by keeping an open mind about what I considered ‘career’. If I’d been very rigid from the get-go, I absolutely would not be here now. If I’d shot down an opportunity to try communications and PR because I was a journalist and only a journalist, I wouldn’t have worked for a political leader, I wouldn’t have worked for a wonderful charity, and I wouldn’t have learnt the invaluable skills that those two roles equipped me with.
I went back to media after those jobs, it’s true, but I went back with a wealth of new skills I didn’t have. And those have put me in good stead with Amazon – one of the most exciting employers on the planet right now. I was able to demonstrate strategic thinking, juggling multiple competing priorities, stakeholder relations and project management, among other thing.
Other than that, I’m curious. I like the idea of learning new things.
Q3 > How do you evaluate opportunities? What’s your thought process when you are deciding what to say ‘yes’ to?
Shannon: I’m big on culture. I like a workplace that’s supportive, optimistic and excited. In addition to that, I like a role that has the scope to challenge me too. And I like a gig where I think I’ll be passionate about the work I do.
There’s an old saying that if you find a job doing what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s so annoyingly fanciful. I am literally living my childhood dream every single day. My life is so far beyond what I could’ve ever comprehended. Ever. But hard work is hard work. It’s not always blissfully wonderful. There are bad days. There are soul-crushing moments of immense challenge. But that’s what keeps it interesting, I suppose.
Q4 > Looking back on your journey to date, what is the one pivotal moment or decision you attribute your success to?
Shannon: Everything I am and everything I’ve achieved is traced back to the very beginning of my professional life. I was in my final year at university and a professor who I’d had for a whopping two classes – one of which I’d failed, mind you – asked to speak to me.
He told me a major media organisation was hiring a cadet journalist. He wanted to put me forward for it. It wasn’t because I was an excellent student. I wasn’t. It wasn’t because I’d impressed him I class. I absolutely had not done that. It was because I got involved with the journalism school, as head of the student association, as a student council advisory member, as a volunteer with first years, as a keen participant in extra learning seminars, and that sort of thing.
It was because he’d heard from his own contacts in the industry that I was an incredibly persistent pain in their asses in trying to land an internship or work experience. It was because he’d seen me protesting the closure of our student newspaper and then, inevitably, lobbying for a digital replacement to offer students a voice.
My point is, you make your own destiny. If you ever find yourself in a classroom or a boardroom or a job interview holding room, looking at several, or dozens, or hundreds of other people, just remember – those are your competitors. You have to differentiate yourself from those people. Opportunities rarely come down to luck. Timing, yes, sometimes. But the rest is 100 per cent up to you.
Q5 > When it comes to taking control of one’s career, a common challenge is a lack of confidence. Do you have any tips or suggestions on how this can be overcome?
Shannon: I have the worst self-esteem. I suffer from a severe case of imposter syndrome, and I always have. I know I have some vague element of talent but honestly I still wait for the day when I’m ‘found out’ and turfed out onto the street.
When I was 20 or so, I had the opportunity to attend a media industry dinner and was sat next to an accomplished television journalist. I worked up the courage to speak to her. She was extraordinary. As the night wore on, and I had a few more wines, I admitted that I was petrified about landing a job, and once I had, about not stuffing it up. She admitted she had felt the same way, every single day, for 20 years.
Her solution? Fake it. Fake it ‘til you make it. Don’t be cocky, but be confident – always. Scientists say looking at yourself in the mirror and smiling for a minute can activate the happy receptors in your brain. Faking it does the same thing, I’ve found.
I’ve seen so many interns come in who are petrified and as a result come across as disinterested, timid, socially incapable or, worse, rude. This is a sure-fire way to either leave no mark or make a really bad impression. Fake it. It works.