When I was 17 I had a mate called Kev who managed a sausage factory. Although only 2 years older than me, his precocious talent (in that he could speak English) fast tracked him into a management position. One of his responsibilities was to select which Labour Hire agency would be used to staff a factory which smelt, quite frankly, like a dog’s fanny. This was my first insight into the seedy underbelly of the recruitment industry. Y’see, my mate Kev had a penchant for the old “wacky baccy”. One enterprising agency, having got wind of his tastes in reggae cigarettes, would show up every Friday with half an ounce of Mary Jane’s finest, and strangely enough, were always on the PSA. As time progressed, Kev developed a tastes for the Devil’s Dandruff itself; coke, charlie, bugle, Bolivian marching pounder. Call it what you will. From that point on, Kev developed what Begbie would go on to describe as a “wee habit”.

Next month, New Zealand will go to the polls to vote on the legalisation of cannabis. Most polls are currently suggesting a marginal victory for the “yes” campaigners, but the result still hangs in the balance. This got me thinking about drug use and misuse in our own industry. Although not spoken about in polite company, the elephant in the room is that some very high billers have a proclivity towards cocaine, meth, MDMA and an assorted of other party drugs which, in many cases, borders on addiction. And some of these recruiters have even been enabled over the years by sympathetic managers who turn a blind eye based on performance. I’d go as far to say that, if you work for a global recruitment firm, see that desk in that meeting room? There’s a pretty good chance a line of coke has been racked up on it. Perhaps you did it yourself. Perhaps your boss paid for it. Feel free to comment and say “that would never happen at blah blah blah” and we can all enjoy your naivety collectively.

I am not here to judge however. Although I’d pass every drug test going these days (as well as most STI checks and the occasional lie detector), I’ve certainly “experimented” as Rock biographers would say.  If we look at the London market, and also Melbourne, Sydney, and to a lesser extent Auckland, drugs (especially cocaine) is part of the culture of a successful agency recruiter. “Getting a bag in” after a good week is no different to many than treating yourself to those R.M. Williams shoes. So what’s the deal? To my mind, there’s three possible things that might be giving us the taste for the “high” life:

  1. Recruitment is a young (wo)man’s game. And if you give young people a large amount of disposable income (yeah, recruiters used to make money. Crazy huh?), they’ll convert a lot of that money into having a good time. For some, that’ll mean hoovering up a load of blow.
  2. Late nights with clients, and high energy “core hours” the next day, lends itself to party drugs over alcohol. Whilst damaging in gynecology, the ability to talk utter shit incessantly is highly regarded in the recruitment industry. And drugs certainly help with that.
  3. Drugs tend to attract those who are prepared to suffer physical, social, and financial loss, in order to achieve the occasional absolute high. There’s also probably not a better description of an agency recruiter. Regardless of drug use, perhaps we’re just cut from similar cloth?

My gut tells me all three have some truth with the final point being the most persuasive. And when it comes to Recruiters on drugs, they tend to burn hot and fast. Some of the best billers I know (and know of) also happened to be those who have substance abuse issues. And most don’t last long. Interestingly, they’re also often smokers. That’s not to say you can’t bill a million dollars without being Keith Moon, but I bet anyone who’s been in the industry long enough knows a good biller who went wayward on “the gear”. And if you don’t, it’s probably you.

Anyway, no particular narrative, and certainly no judgement from me this week. Just some casual musings and reflection. Probably the sort of thing a big, fat doobie would’ve helped with.

Have a good weekend folks, and stay safe no matter what your poison.

^SW

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