Overqualified in the Cannabis Industry

Overqualified in the Cannabis Industry

Cannabis industry careers are among the most sought after lines of work in North America and it seems that people from every area of the country are eager to obtain a position in the legal cannabis industry.  I have recruited and hired more than 300 people for well-known national cannabis brands that originated in Colorado and have had the opportunity to interview eager people from areas that span all across the United States.  During this time I noticed that it is very common for new applicants to doubt their qualifications, while some cannabis industry veterans often joke that one of the biggest qualifications to excel in cannabis is to simply show up.  The truth is that there are a multitude of everyday careers and skill sets which translate very well into a cannabis career.  It is equally true that company standards are wildly varied and, while simply showing up is enough at some organizations, professionals and leaders will most likely look for the ladder to their next platform for growth.  If there isn’t a ladder they will build one, in the pursuit of knowledge and career expansion.

What happens when those who are active within cannabis industry careers actually do more than just show up, those who show up as motivated professionals, who are prepared and capable of excelling in their role?  They tend to get promoted to key roles, but what happens when said employees, who climbed or built a ladder, reach a plateau within their organization?  They tend to look for the next ladder to climb and sometimes that ladder is found by moving on to another opportunity, which is more aligned with their career goals. The types of positions offered within the cannabis industry are numerous and the array of knowledge one might attain in different settings or roles is immeasurable. What often happens to cannabis industry professionals who have obtained massive amounts of knowledge over the course of their career? Seasoned employees are sometimes terminated by a company to cut costs only to be replaced by someone, less experienced, who is willing to perform the role for half the salary.  Industry veterans are  frequently being told that they are overqualified when trying to move on to something new. Overqualified… to excel?  There’s another joke among industry veterans and it references how “they” only say you’re overqualified when they can’t afford you, or when you know more than they want you to.  In Colorado, in particular, we have witnessed a mass exodus of some of the best minds in the cannabis industry, it seems that a lot of their opportunity for growth has moved on to different regions like Nevada, Massachusetts, California and of course the rapidly evolving market of Canada.

With over 7 years of leadership and corporate experience within various cannabis industry careers like retail, operations, sales, marketing, human resources and organizational development, I was recently in the position of being told that I’m “overqualified” for the roles that were actually aligned very well with my experience and skill set.  While seeking a new and challenging opportunity, and being courted by some of the most reputable brands in the Colorado cannabis industry, I realized that jumping on board with another “me too” company didn’t align with my desired professional growth.  I soon realized the necessity of thinking outside the box and exactly how valuable the career lessons are, which I have learned from previous colleagues and executive teams.  I decided my next best move would be to align myself with other innovators and leaders who are not only making smart moves, but also making all the right connections. I sought a team of professionals who share my vision then approached a start-up company where an entirely different business model was being developed and where my knowledge and insight are vital.  I’m pleased to admit that we are already gaining impressive momentum nationwide while I continue to learn and expand upon an already ample skill set.

Instead of viewing the title of “overqualified” as a burden for a cannabis industry career, I suggest looking at this descriptor as a sign that you may be setting your sights too low.  Take a look at your journey and proudly view overqualification as an opportunity to challenge yourself to grow in ways that you never thought were possible.  Being overqualified gives you an impressive level of industry comprehension that people all across North America have only dreamt of.  If you are in a similar situation, do yourself a favor and think as far outside of the box as you can.  If your cannabis career was made here in Colorado, thinking outside the box may mean packing up the valuable skills that were developed and refined here and venturing out into to a new market where Colorado professionals are highly sought after as key contributors to business optimization and organizational strategy. Keep in mind, also, that the cannabis industry that we know and love is, and will remain, an ever-changing landscape.  There is no doubt in my mind that there will continue to be brand new and innovative opportunities for cannabis industry professionals who have extensive experience with navigating the terrain. Stay focused and motivated to keep growing your professional career and, most importantly, never settle.


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