Your lack of experience specifically in the cannabis industry is likely not nearly the obstacle you fear it may be.
5 min read
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People at every level eager to build exciting careers – including top executives feeling trapped in low or no-growth industries – should take a serious look at the cannabis industry.
Let’s start with the numbers. The U.S. legal cannabis market was valued at $11.9 billion in 2018; globally the market is expected to be worth $66.3 billion by the end of 2025.
The industry has created 211,000 full-time jobs in America to date. In Canada, job openings had tripled by 2018, representing 34 out of every 10,000 job postings, according to Indeed.com. States just coming online will be hungry for talent: as just one example, Missouri’s developing medical market is expected to create 7,500 new jobs next year.
For job seekers hoping to enter the cannabis business, the key to success is understanding the hard — and soft — skills that hiring managers value most.
Degrees or background in cultivation.
This may sound counter-intuitive at first: how can hiring managers expect candidates to have education or background in an industry that has only recently been legalized?
Already, many top universities and institutions, as well as specialized continuing education companies, have begun offering classes and degrees in the cannabis industry. For example, The Medical Cannabis Institute offers several courses that are state-approved. There’s also Oaksterdam University, “America’s first cannabis college” which already has over 40,000 Alumni worldwide.
Candidates with clearly transferable skills — for example, people who have cultivated specialized microgreens — will find many employers eager to help them re-train to join the cannabis industry.
Hard Skills: Technology
If your career has been in a laboratory, an extraction company, or dispensary, your skills are absolutely in demand. Have you spent your career in regulatory and compliance? You’ll be welcome in the cannabis industry. The industry is also seriously hungry for data scientists, machine-learning engineers, and experts in computer networking. Experienced executives who struggle to get an interview at Facebook or Google because of Silicon Valley age-ism will find that the cannabis industry welcomes gray hair and serious technical chops with open arms.
Hard Skills: Finance, Manufacturing and Operations
Cannabis is a fast-growing industry in constant need of accountants, controllers and CFOs to help them manage cash flows and pursue expansion opportunities. Cannabis companies are also looking for people in manufacturing and operations with the skills to help them scale to meet ever-growing demand.
Hard Skills: Sales and Marketing
The gold rush in cannabis means intense competition for market share. Business development executives capable of building powerful relationships with major customers are worth their weight in gold in any business, but perhaps nowhere more than in the cannabis industry at this critical moment. Business-to-business marketing staff and consumer marketing pros are also very much needed.
Soft Skills: Agility, Cultural Fit and Attitude
The cannabis industry is new and talent-hungry, so it’s the right place for younger applicants looking to build a career. The working environment is a lot like you’d find in a tech startup, and smart businesses are ready to invest in promising talent — even if you’re just starting out and haven’t had time to add many accomplishments to your resumé.
What hiring managers are looking for in young employees is agility, flexibility, a collaborative spirit and can-do attitude. Young companies want employees who are coachable, high-energy and eager to meet new challenges. The role you’re in today may change entirely the next week. It’s a great environment for people who crave fresh challenges and new opportunities to prove themselves.
Here are the three keys to success in the cannabis industry:
1. Get educated, and stay educated. If you can afford to take a few courses, do it. Having some cannabis education on your resumé is a clear sign that you have a passion for the business and a real interest in building success. Get in touch with executive recruiting companies (like mine!) that specialize in the cannabis business and know exactly which skills are needed most. Read the content being published by leaders in the industry.
2. Leverage your experience to reinvent yourself in a growing industry. If you have the kinds of hard skills listed above, your lack of direct experience in the cannabis industry is likely not nearly the obstacle you fear it may be. Tweak your resumé to feature the most needed and most transferable skills.
3. Leverage job boards and don’t forget to network. There are many job boards where cannabis companies are looking for talent, and even some that are exclusively focused on just that industry. Don’t be shy about applying for jobs this way. Unlike many industries where there is a glut of talent, the cannabis industry is still in the early stages. And make sure you network!
Depending on which state you live in, you might be able to find meetups and other events that help you meet people in the business. Follow industry leaders on Twitter and LinkedIn. Help them with useful advice and connections when you can. There’s so much you can learn by making the right connections.
You crave an exciting career? Cannabis companies are always looking for exciting candidates.
This is the best time to look into what promises to be a booming industry for years to come. Good luck and good job-hunting!