If you’ve ever considered making the leap from the mainstream workforce to a career in cannabis, you’re not alone. In 2019, the cannabis industry added 33,700 new jobs, up 15% from the year prior. And this growth came despite shakeups caused by capital dry-ups, the vaping crisis, and more. Since the onset of COVID-19 this year, Vangst has seen thousands of new job seekers join our community – many of whom are more ready than ever to trade up from their old career for new opportunity in a recession-resistant industry. Cannabis is here to stay, and the most pioneering and innovative professionals are quickly recognizing the upside of getting involved.

But before making the jump, what do you need to be prepared for? Are the rewards really worth the risk of leaving a mainstream industry with a stable history? Is the cannabis industry worth attaching your reputation to?  Is there a place for professionals who have no cannabis experience at all? The answer to all of these questions is YES. However, there are still  things you need to know before diving in headfirst. The world of cannabis is promising and rewarding, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

In this blog post, we’ll break down exactly what to expect if you’re considering making a professional change to pursue a career in cannabis.

cannabis career candidate

I’m Ready To Make The Jump To A Career In Cannabis – What Do I Need To Know?

There’s Still a Stigma…But You Can Help Dispel It

Despite the amazing advances in cannabis, many people still attach a stigma to the industry. In fact, all four panelists who joined our recent Live Summit Series agreed that addressing this stigma was the first big hurdle when starting a career in cannabis. Family, friends, and even colleagues who aren’t familiar with the cannabis industry or the power of the plant can have a lot of opinions.

“You’re going to put that on your resume?!” (don’t worry, we can help with this one)

“So are you just going to smoke pot at work all day?”

“It’s not even federally legal – will you get arrested?”

“But you have a KID!”

These are all comments actual from the peanut gallery that us Vangsters have heard. But the great thing about tackling the cannabis stigma is that once you have the facts, it’s easy. Focus on educating your circle of influence – and yourself, if you’re on the fence – about how the cannabis industry really works, and the benefits it delivers. The cannabis industry is responsible for creating jobs, supporting mental and physical wellbeing, boosting local economies, and, according to many opinions, even saving lives.

The Learning Curve is Steep

The sheer amount of learning required to successfully transition from a mainstream job to a career in cannabis can be overwhelming. The vernacular alone is daunting, especially if you aren’t personally a cannabis connoisseur. And ever-changing, state-varying regulations affect every part of the cannabis business, from growth and distribution to marketing and accounting. No matter what department you work in, quickly getting up to speed with the rules and requirements is critical to success.

Another adjustment you’ll want to prepare for is the fact many of your trustiest tools and tactics for getting the job done may be a no-go in cannabis. Here are just a few examples:

  • Many mainstream marketing channels heavily restrict the use of cannabis language and imagery – Facebook and Google among them.
  • Cannabis is still a cash-driven business, which means it’s an entirely new frontier for many accounting and finance pros.
  • SaaS platforms and contracting partners aren’t yet ready to extend their services to cannabis enterprises. If you’re used to an endless choice of vendors, this can be a big adjustment.
  • Bottom line: If want to make a career switch, be ready to learn fast, and adapt faster.

To get started on your knowledge quest, check out our glossary guide to common cannabis terms, and get familiar with state-by-state requirements for cannabis. You can also join our newsletter to stay updated on industry insights and learning events hosted by Vangst. And if you just can’t wait ’til the next one, check out our Vimeo page, where we host all of our Vangst Summit Series panel talks.

The industry is still young.

No matter what your experience or your title is, be prepared to help “build the plane” as your team flies it, and get comfortable with getting your hands dirty. Many established cannabis companies may still be building out their formal company policies, business processes, and data infrastructures. And because innovation happens at lightning speed, product and go-to-market strategies are built, and rebuilt, from the ground up on almost everyday basis. As much as your new peers teach you about the cannabis industry, you’ll likely be expected to teach them about your career expertise and insight in return.

But perhaps the most exciting thing about a career in cannabis? The the access and the impact you’ll almost certainly have, no matter where you land. Overwhelmingly, we hear our candidates say the same two things when reflecting on their new career. The first is that access to the movers and shakers in the industry, including your own executive team, is extraordinary. And second? Every single voice counts – including yours. If you are’t ready to be heard, to be in charge, and to be accountable for making real success happen (and rolling with the punches when they come), then a career in cannabis isn’t for you.

But if you’re ready for one of the most thrilling and rewarding careers in a lifetime, we certainly hope we can help you get started. As one of our recent panelists, put it, “No matter what role you hold, you are literally writing the history of a new industry.”

cannabis career candidate

How Do I get a Job in Cannabis if I Don’t Have Cannabis Experience?

YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A REGULAR CANNABIS CONSUMER.

Contrary to popular belief, regular consumption isn’t a prerequisite to working in cannabis. While many in the cannabis industry have a personal affinity for the benefits of the plant, not everyone does. As with any profession, it’s important to believe in what you’re selling and to understand the product or service inside and out. But remember that being authentic in your passion for product doesn’t mean you have to have direct experience with it. Passionate pros in pharmaceuticals, medical services, and even luxury products demonstrate this every day.

DO YOUR RESEARCH.

You can always make up for a lack of direct experience, but you can never make up for thorough knowledge and understanding of the company you want to work for, and the industry you want to be in. As with any career move, researching your potential employer and learning everything you can about the business of cannabis is key. And if you’re interested in a plant-touching role, you’ll need to understand the requirements by state for working in cannabis. The Vangst Resources page offers a lot of great information on the basics of the cannabis industry, including insider tips for breaking into the industry.

GET READY TO NETWORK.

Like any industry, networking in cannabis is key. In fact, networking in cannabis is one of the most common topics our Vangster candidates ask us about. While the cannabis industry can admittedly sometimes feel like a member’s only club, the more you time you spend on the scene the more comfortable you’ll feel. COVID-19 has put a damper on the events circuit, but all kinds of networking spaces are emerging online, including the Vangst talent matching platform and Cannagather’s great roster of digital events. And remember, LinkedIn is tried and true. So is Instagram, for that matter. So go ahead and request that connection, and slide on in to those DMs! Cannabis, after all, is an industry for the bold.

DON’T HUSTLE FOR YOUR WORTH, KNOW IT.

If want a career in cannabis but you lack industry experience, it’s easy to lose your confidence. But we’re here to tell you, don’t! Remember: the legal recreational cannabis industry is less than a decade old. That means that the vast majority of today’s leading cannabis professional made a huge career shift from another industry, just like you. As you network and apply for jobs, remember to sell what you know.

Many of the best cannabis companies out there want outside experts who can bring deep knowledge to a team who is lacking in that particular area. By focusing on what you can bring to the table and less on what you still have to learn, you can show your employer what they’re missing by not hiring you, not what you’re missing by being new to the industry.

EMBRACE THE INDUSTRY!

You don’t need to have a job in cannabis before to become active and well-versed in the industry, so start today! Sign up for our newsletter and follow the Vangst Blog page to stay sharp on the latest industry insights and career building tips, and start exploring job opportunities today. There’s a place in cannabis for everyone, and Vangst will always be here to help you find yours.

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