Do you dream of leaving your cubicle behind to work in the sunshine? Would you like to meet interesting people who love their jobs? Does the idea of starting out in a brand-spanking new industry excite you?

For Washingtonians that dream might be closer than you think. Since 502, an entirely new world of job opportunities has opened up, if you’re open-minded enough about your career prospects.

Kara Bradford has worked in staffing and human resources for about 15 years and has experience in recruiting for everything from tech and medical supplies, to consumer packaged goods. She’s bringing her skills to the cannabis industry with her new recruiting company, Viridian Staffing, with partner David Murét. Based in Seattle, the duo have also just expanded their services to Colorado.

Here, Kara tells us about the challenges of staffing this new industry and gives you tips on securing a job in this burgeoning field. Microsofties, you might want to take note.

Tell us how you started your company?

We started late last October. We came up with the idea based on listening to a lot of individuals who own and run cannabis businesses who say, “Gosh, we need help with marketing or packaging,” or “I’ve been a master grower forever, and I need a CEO who can come in and run the business side of things.”

We realized those folks need so much help with staffing and recruiting, and we also wanted to make sure that the industry is successful, so we decided to start the company.

How was the ramp-up to the first recreational shops opening?

We’ve received more job orders in the last week [July 8] than we’ve gotten to date. People are finally getting their licenses. Initially, when we were meeting with clients, they said, “We’re going to need employees, but we don’t have a license yet, and we don’t want to hire someone and have to lay them off if something happens with the license.” It’s been a lot of hurry up and wait.

Well, the hurry up and wait has finally arrived, so we’re flooded with several job orders for multiple companies. Fortunately, most we were ready for as some reached out five, six, seven months ago to plan for it. It makes me feel better that companies are being very diligent about making sure that they’re not hiring people only to then have to lay them off. They’re thinking, “Let’s just wait and bring people on when we need them and provide a living wage.”

How is the pay?

I’ve seen anywhere from $13 per hour—that’s more for an administrative assistant, trimmer, bud tender or someone working in retail shops—to six-figure incomes and everything in between.

Six figures are more for CEOs, and it’s even possible for master growers to reach six figures. It’s mostly based on production. It’s very much a pay-for-performance type environment, especially for master growers. The average salary I’m seeing industry wide is around $50,000.

What qualities are you looking for?

Honestly, it depends on the client. What’s most important is talking to the candidates and seeing why they’re interested in being part of this industry. One of my very first questions is “why are you interested in this company?”

It often leads to much longer phone interviews because people go into story mode. Especially when they’re so passionate about the plant.

How many applications have you received?

Thousands. They have just been pouring in. I’m just trying to screen candidates to find out what might be the best fit. If they’re interested in a certain type of position that they’re not qualified for I can refer them to training resources, too.

Do you have any tips for  job seekers?

Absolutely. The big thing is not be afraid to put your cannabis background on your resume, especially when it’s coming to us. By seeing what your background and experience is within the industry I have a better idea of how I can place you. If I see a resume and they have customer service experience, I’ll consider them for customer service positions, but maybe they’ve also been a grower for years and I’m not able to consider them for that. It’s okay to have a cannabis-friendly resume when applying within the industry.

The other thing is to make sure that you’re taking advantage of opportunities like volunteering for Hempfest. Get out there, know and understand what’s going on in the industry, meet some people. One of the things I noticed is that folks tend to pay it forward. The people who are out there are the ones companies recognize when we send their CVs over. They say, “I know who this is. They came to this meeting and came to Hempfest. They are consistent and do a great job.”

What positions are most in demand right now?

Still growers, and not necessarily just master growers, but folks to help form the grows who have horticulture experience. Sales positions are in demand. Office managers are in demand as well, someone who’s kind of a Jack or Jane of all trades that can help manage a company and be a right hand to the CEO.

What can women offer this industry?

I think that our collaborative nature is a plus. In this industry, sometimes you have some strong personalities. The fact that women can bring people to the table to talk and work together, I think that’s going to be a key thing we can do.

There are so many strong female leaders in this industry. It has just been amazing to meet all the female CEOs. I was talking to a group the other day, and I’m getting a lot of female applicants for office managers and admin assistants, but not a lot of women for master growers and CEOs. I looked around and was like, “It’s because we’re all running the companies.”

What I’m seeing missing is the middle tier because a lot of women are running the organizations. It’s really exciting, but it also gives us a great opportunity to help drive additional women into the industry.

Do you have advice for women who want to break into predominantly male roles?

If they’ve never done any horticulture or growing before they should reach out to some of the women in the women’s groups for mentorship so they can get a better understanding of what is required. Do a job shadow of someone and see if it’s something they would want to do.

There are definitely some on the medical side with collective gardens who will let people come through and take a look at what they do. I see them being the ones who really are passionate and helping mentor. With 502 businesses now, everyone is just nose to the grindstone in the retail stores, but medical operations are still very open to showing you what they do.

Looking for a new gig? Send your CV to Viridian to be considered for a variety of positions, from office work to helping grow. 

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