I was a successful leader of one of the largest consulting firms in the world. I coached some of the world’s top business leaders. Then I left corporate America to work in the cannabis industry, where I assumed my decade-plus of leadership experience, corporate design knowledge and other skills would be of value.
I was both right and wrong.
To be sure, many of the people I met in the industry appreciated the help I could offer their emerging companies. But it was my initial approach, and my lack of intimate knowledge of the industry and culture, that nearly killed my budding -- no pun intended -- new career. So, I began working around the clock to make myself expert in this new industry.
And, eventually, my newly humble approach helped me gain the knowledge and experience (as well as respect) I needed to become an industry leader. Here are the top five things I’ve learned about landing a job in the cannabis world:
1. We don’t often call it weed, pot, or marijuana. It’s 'cannabis.'
One of the first things I learned is that this industry is shaking off the stigma of “weed” and “stoners” and replacing those images with the more professional one of “cannabis.”
When you are in this industry (or interviewing for it), be mindful of the words you use and the jokes you toss off. We hate the typical “stoner” jokes the media makes. It’s a plant first, and its name is cannabis.
2. Don’t assume anything . . . and ask lots of questions.
I made some pretty big assumptions about the industry back when I started. Number one, I assumed that all owners drove Ferraris and were among the richest people in the world. This is dead wrong. Many of the leaders aren't wealthy, live modestly, drive the same cars they have for years and put all their profits back into their businesses.
I also assumed that I would be surrounded by people who were not particularly professional. Also false. In fact, this industry is producing very passionate, innovative and professional people.
The best way to avoid these same mistakes is: Ask lots of questions. Determine if the company you hope to work for is structured or not. Find out how its team manages day-to-day operations, and who has decision-making power (sometimes it is the founder, and sometimes others in the company).
3. Be ready to work hard . . . maybe harder than you have before.
Another surprising aspect of the industry, I found, was the speed at which it operates. I often say the cannabis industry is "like the dotcom era meets the industrial revolution and is moving at the speed of light." In fact, a month in the cannabis world is like a year in the corporate world, and that’s no exaggeration.
If you work in this industry, you can expect long hours and hard work.
The good news is that you’ll have a purpose. It feels like we are changing the world, which means we are focused on success, ideas and innovation every minute of every day. Just remember that once it takes hold of you, it won’t let go. If you want the most exciting career of your life, strap in, hold on and be ready to work.
4. Self-starters are wanted here.
In the corporate universe, workers have leaders, and those leaders often give direction. Sometimes, leaders give clear direction, but oftentimes people run around their offices wasting their days in a land of indecision, committees and meetings, with little to show at the end of the day.
This industry is different. We demand your best ideas every day to make us better, and we always expect a self-starter attitude. Make your own way, help us find better solutions and contribute.
At High There! our head of social media and marketing, Megan, is young, smart and educated. She shows up every day with a million new ideas, suggestions and improvements. She has a seat at the table, which is more than most people her age have in most companies. But that is because she comes in every morning ready to contribute. That is how you win in this industry -- by being humble, ready to work and excited to be on board.
5. Prepare to be around cannabis a lot.
Simply put: We like cannabis. And we use it as a medical and recreational product. In fact we call it a “medicreational” product, since it’s fun and good for us.
While of course it's not a requirement to consume cannabis to work in the industry, be prepared to articulate your personal relationship with it when you’re interviewing.
One of the questions I ask all people I interview is, “What is your relationship to cannabis?” The answer is very important because it tells us your attitude in regards to the plant.
Warning! If you have an aversion to cannabis, go no further. If you’re simply looking for the opportunity to make money or build a career in this space, but don’t believe in the plant and all it can do, I suggest you save yourself time and energy.
We are a very unique industry that stands firmly in the belief that cannabis is good and has amazing health benefits. We have built a multibillion dollar industry on this, and we’re not stopping any time soon.