Karson Humiston, the founder and president of Vangst Talent Network, has paired roughly 2,000 jobseekers from a wide range of professional backgrounds with high-profile gigs in the cannabis space, but fighting the industry’s persisting stigma can sometimes feel like a full-time job all on its own.
“This notion of a typical stoner sitting on the couch eating potato chips and smoking weed is what a lot of people carry in their minds…when I tell them I run a cannabis talent agency,” Humiston told Civilized.
“My response is always: do you think people working in the liquor industry are taking shots all day long? It’s just not the case, but it still tends to be the stigma.”
The reality, said Humiston, could not be farther from this irksome misconception. In the two years since she launched her Denver-based talent agency focusing specifically on the cannabis industry, Humiston has connected professionals from all walks of life with more than 300 burgeoning cannabis companies across the U.S.
And when it comes to the resumes of those she’s worked with, “the basement” typically doesn’t make a prominent appearance under “Past Employment.”
“When we started this company, the entire vision was to bring in professionals from all different sectors into this industry… to ultimately reach the goal of where the industry wants to go,” said Humiston.
“What that means is that when we’re recruiting for a specific position, let’s say a cultivation person, we’re not looking for somebody who’s been growing cannabis in the basement. We’re looking for large-scale commercial horticulturalists, maybe those from the tomato industry who… know exactly what they’re doing and can apply it to the cannabis industry.”
Another common misunderstanding about the industry, said Humiston, is that the only jobs up for grabs are for budtenders or plant trimmers. In reality, some of the most common positions she fills for cannabis companies are in sectors like sales, retail management and finance.
“A lot of these companies when they’re starting out, especially if they have a product or service, need sales directors to come in and help them work out the sales processes… so we’re bringing in sales directors who have experience building out sales teams,” said Humiston.
“On the retail side, we’re seeing a lot of demand for people who have experience with high volume, high-end retail, so we’re pulling general managers out of a Williams-Sonoma or a Lululemon.
“On the finance side, we’re filling everything from staff accountants to bookkeepers and CFOs… Companies are looking for people with experience with a lot of cash management, so we’re finding a lot of great people from the restaurant industry.”
Humiston meets these candidates through a combination of direct-hires, contract-to-hire placements and Vangst Talent Network career fairs.
The company’s first of five career fairs back in 2014 attracted about 500 applicants. At the next event in Denver January 19, Humiston expects about 2,500.
She only foresees these numbers growing as more and more states pass cannabis legislation of their own. In the next five years, she hopes to have filled 10,000 positions across the country.
“After the election, we went from averaging about 300 inbound resumes a day to about 500. I think people are realizing more and more that this is an up-and-coming industry and they want to get in on the ground floor,” said Humiston, who believes this is a smart move for several reasons.
“One of the benefits of working in this industry is the high growth potential, because not only is this a start-up industry, but most companies are start-up companies… where you have an opportunity to grow with the company and excel your career at a rate that may not be possible in another space.”
Banner image: Vangst hosted a talent fair last July in Denver.