(Seth A. McConnell, Denver Post file)

Work with weed: Advice on what not to do at a job fair

The concept of a cannabis-centric career fair is still novel enough to inspire a few chuckles. But the truth is this: Marijuana is a billion dollar-per-year industry in Colorado alone — and at least seven states are voting on recreational and medical initiatives in November.

There’s green in them there hills. So of course job seekers are hot to work in the legal marijuana trade.

Nearly 50 weed businesses will be exhibiting at the Vangst Talent Network cannabis career fair from 2-8 p.m. July 28 at Mile High Station in Denver, and they’ll be hiring for a wide variety of positions in the marijuana space.

“We asked all of the companies attending to provide us with their open job listings,” said Karson Humiston, founder of Vangst Talent Network, formerly known as Gradujuana. “While we’ve seen everything from entry-level trimmers to VPs, the top five most common positions are budtenders, managers, sales representatives, growers and bookkeepers.”

We spoke with Humiston about the job fair and tips on securing a position in the weed industry — as well as advice on what not to do.

The Cannabist: Hosting businesses that are hiring is mandatory for any career fair, but adding educational elements is also important. What are the ancillary services and aspects of this fair that attendees can take advantage of?

Karson Humiston: One of our goals in hosting career fairs around the country is to continue to educate current industry employees and ensure best practices are applied around the industry. We have partnered with Cannabis Trainers who will have a booth and offer discounts to their training classes. We also have a product demo section where industry employees can demo and learn about products they often sell. Many of the companies coming believe budtenders are their best sales people, and this a chance for companies to educate and promote their products to the right people!

Another one of our goals is to attract new talent to the cannabis space. We have industry leaders such as Diane Czarkowski, founder of Canna Advisers, speaking about a variety of topics including job opportunities in the cannabis industry, legalization and market trends, and what cannabis employers are looking for. We want to attract professionals from other industries who will bring their skills and experiences to our industry. Education is a huge component in this and we believe the best way to learn is to hear from people who are actively working in the cannabis industry.

We will also have representatives from the MED on hand to help newcomers navigate the application process.

Cannabist: What are the common mistakes job hunters make when first coming out to a cannabis job fair, in your experience?

Humiston: Forgetting to follow up is a big one. Job seekers come to our career fair, drop their resume off at twenty tables, and expect to have a job the next day. It is important for job seekers to follow up with the companies they are interested in pursuing within a few days. So, don’t forget to get a business card, get your mental notes down on paper sooner rather than later, and make the time to write thoughtful follow-up emails.

It’s also a good idea for job seekers to do their research. Make a plan on which attending businesses you’d like to speak to, and make sure you know at least a few basic facts about them. This will really help you stand out and it shows you are serious. It also can’t hurt to have a resume tailored specifically to the company you’re hoping to work at. And if you see or hear about a new company you think might be a fit, it’s totally okay to go find a corner and use your smartphone to do some research before making your pitch.

Cannabist: If you had one piece of advice for job seekers attending this fair or one of your others throughout the U.S., what would it be?

Humiston: Explore your options, cast a wide net, and ask questions! Take time to walk around and learn about many different companies and absorb as much information as possible. A company might not have the role you’re looking for right now, but you never know down the line. Ultimately, this is a huge networking event. You should think of all the connections you make at the job fair in the long term.

A previous cannabis career fair in Denver. (Vangst Talent Network)
A previous cannabis career fair in Denver. (Vangst Talent Network)

Cannabist: Why do you think there is still all this excitement surrounding finding work in the legal cannabis industry?

Humiston: Our industry represents an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some people to begin a second career. For those with entrepreneurial or adventurous spirits–or who have just been quietly passionate about cannabis, it almost can’t get any better, especially when they realize some of the skills they’ve harnessed in mainstream industries can be applied to cannabis. The time to get in on the ground floor is beginning to fade, but the opportunity is still tangible. Getting in the door now will give you a competitive advantage as cannabis goes mainstream.

According to ArcView, legal market sales are expected to pass $22 billion by 2020. The “Colorado Experiment” is no longer that–the sky hasn’t fallen and, in fact, the cannabis industry has led to more jobs and increased tax revenue. Four more states, including California, could legalize adult use this November, more than doubling the current rec market. Medically, we’re at over half the states. The general public and, quite frankly, politicians, are starting to realize that the cannabis industry isn’t going away. They are really just beginning to take us seriously.

Cannabist: You’re charging job seekers $10 to get inside this job fair. What do they get in return for that investment?

Humiston: There will be just under 50 businesses, from local to national, looking for just over 1,000 positions, from entry level to the executive level. There will also be educational demonstrations and five expert speakers. Everyone attending will also get a digital packet detailing each attending company along with job descriptions to help keep them organized. Finally, they get into our invite-only after party sponsored by Leafly with DJ, open bar, complimentary food, and plenty of networking. Job seekers will be able to accomplish more in one day than they would in months of job hunting, with the added benefit of instantly connecting through face time instead of email.