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6 Tips to Securing a Career in the Cannabis Industry

PHOTO Gracie Malley


6 Tips to Securing a Career in the Cannabis Industry

Danielle Barber, a wellness consultant for 10 years at Harborside Health Center in Oakland, offers advice to aspiring cannabis professionals

With medical marijuana laws established in over half of the 50 states, and several in the midst of implementing adult use, some experts argue cannabis is the fastest growing industry in the U.S. Certainly there will continue to be thousands of new cannabis-related jobs available, but who will snag them and how?

Danielle Barber, a wellness consultant for 10 years at Harborside Health Center in Oakland, offers this advice to aspiring cannabis professionals:

“The people who stand out the most are the ones who connect. Having a beautifully written resume and cover letter can certainly help get you the interview, but establishing a true connection with the interviewee and sharing your story can help get you the job,” she said. “Why do you want to enter the cannabis industry? If your answer is not a noble one, that usually gets you overlooked. Demonstrating an ability to be flexible and a desire to learn will help you keep the job once you get it.”

And yes, it is an exciting career path, but it is not guaranteed to be the most fun and easy job you’ve ever had. It might actually be a challenging and exhausting job for a range of reasons:

  • Getting paid in cash is not as glamorous as it sounds.
  • Patients often expect staff to give detailed medical advice, but staff are rarely given sufficient training.
  • Most jobs are retail sales, manual labor, or middle management with the added challenge of constantly shifting legality and pressure from all levels of government.

Here are some other great tips for getting a career in cannabis:

1. Decide What You Want

Are you open to working for recreational companies, or do you prefer to work for a medical facility? Do you want to be self-employed, or would you rather work for a company or non-profit? Do you prefer working with people or plants? Focus on your cover letter and resume, and tailor them for each position. Decide in advance what you can and cannot compromise, such as how much do you need to get paid, how far are you able to commute and are there tasks you’re not willing or able to perform?

2. Don’t Settle

Make sure you’re getting a legal job for a legal company. At least the basic aspects of your job description and pay rate should be in writing. Take the time to read and understand anything they ask you to sign before signing. If the pay rate is not sustainable, do not accept the job unless you are able to negotiate a living wage.

3. Take Your Time

Yes, the cannabis industry is young, but the cannabis reform movement has existed for decades and some dispensaries have been operating legally for over 15 years. You should not expect to change procedures or marketing campaigns too quickly unless that is what you were hired to do. If you push management to make too many changes too quickly, they are likely to feel offended, threatened or overwhelmed. Fresh energy is usually appreciated, but use caution when criticizing an already existing operation. Build trust before suggesting changes.

4. Keep Calm and Network

Despite the fast pace of this industry, hiring and promotions often happen slowly. Be patient, not pushy. Utilize social media to identify which organizations and events are the best investment of your time and donations. However, use social media sparingly when following up with potential connections – email or in person is better when the relationship is new. For more in-person networking, attend job fairs, workshops and city meetings, volunteer at conferences to receive free registration and patronize a range of dispensaries and other businesses to learn and build a report with potential colleagues.

5. Work With a Staffing Company

Cannabis staffing companies can help you identify companies who share your values. Recruiters can give you feedback on your resume, such as advice on whether or not to include illegal cannabis experience. You also might benefit from interview prep with a professional. Some staffing companies offer mentorships — don’t pass up an opportunity to build a relationship with a mentor who has experience in the industry!

6. Follow the Same Advice as any Other Industry

Use appropriate language and etiquette. Don’t use slang, abbreviations or emojis when corresponding. Act and dress professionally for events and interviews. Maintain a current LinkedIn profile with a professional photo. Consider obtaining relevant education through a respected training program such as Oaksterdam University or a continuing education seminar. Educate yourself on the history of the cannabis movement — companies will need to maintain a commitment to the social justice aspects of the business in order to compete. As with any other job application, don’t exaggerate your experience. This will backfire when your employer realizes you lied.

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