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How to Justify Volunteering in the Community to Your Employer

Posted by Kathleen Smith

Do you actively engage in your professional community to network, gain experiences, and develop your ever-expanding skill set? If you’ve volunteered in the cyber security community, you’ve likely enjoyed the benefits that community involvement offers. But does your employer value your commitment or support your activities in the community? Whether you’re just dipping your toe in the volunteer pool or you’re an established volunteer veteran, there is a business case to be made for your professional activities outside of the office.

Why We Volunteer in the Community

Volunteering at industry conferences and professional meet-ups demands more from our already busy schedules. And while these are nonpaid activities, many conferences and programs in the cyber security community are completely volunteer run. Professionals are willing to step up to the table because they are able to achieve personal fulfillment and professional development, while also adding value to the community.

CyberSecJobs.com, assisted by a network of security conferences globally including Security BSides, HackInParis and HackWestCon, conducted a global survey of industry professionals who spend time volunteering at cyber security conferences and other activities in the cyber security community. Over 55% of the surveyed respondents have been volunteering for more than 4 years and more than 50% give at least 8 hours of their time per month. This level of volunteer commitment is a clear testament to the value that these individuals find in their efforts.

Even if you can’t allocate time to volunteer to this extent, there are still a variety of opportunities available that provide numerous skill-building moments. The majority of volunteers at 41.6% volunteer the day of an event, helping with speakers and logistics. These volunteers still develop skills, build confidence, network in their community, and improve their overall career development.

While taking one day off work to volunteer the day of an event is doable for most of us, what about finding time to get in at the ground level and work all year long to make an event or program happen? How can you communicate this outside commitment to your employer, get them involved, and earn their support? While some employers are already in the know, you might need to share the value of your community involvement to make them understand that your efforts constitute more than playtime.

Making the Case to Employers

Savvy employers know that volunteering offers skill-building opportunities to their employees, builds their employer brand in the community, and helps with retention and recruitment. In fact, 80% of employed survey respondents have an employer who knows they spend time volunteering and supports their efforts. However, if your employer isn’t on board yet, here are a few points to help justify your volunteer activities and gain support.

SKILLS GROWTH

While career progression is typically seen as education, certification, and job moves, we need to build both technical and non-technical skills in order to continually advance. If you’re currently employed, we can assume your technical skills are up to par by your employer’s standards, but what about your soft skills? LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Report found, 92% of talent professionals agree soft skills matter as much as hard skills, if not more. Skills like problem solving and teamwork are vital to a company’s success, but without specific tasks, it’s difficult to build them.

While our day-to-day routines at work don’t always allow us to acquire new skills, volunteering provides a venue to do so. There is correlation between the skills that employers are increasingly seeking and the skills volunteers are learning. The most reported skills that respondents say they take away from volunteering include teamwork, organizing, planning, and communication. Volunteering also offers opportunities to develop qualities spanning leadership, persistence, time management, problem solving, and more—skills that employees can bring back to the workplace to support a more successful and productive team environment. This is a win-win for employees and employers alike.

EMPLOYER BRANDING

Volunteering also gives you an opportunity to serve as a brand ambassador for your organization. Having employees like yourself operate in the community reflects positively on your employer. It increases visibility and promotes a positive employer brand. One of the most common ways people find jobs is by looking into companies they already know about. When you’re out there volunteering or presenting at a conference in the cyber security community, you’re spreading the word about your employer to other potential hires, building awareness and boosting recruitment.

Additionally, when security job seekers look to join a new company, they often want to know about the technical street cred of the team. Your employer can sing your team’s praises, but what better way is there than to show them? By presenting at a conference about all the cool stuff your team is doing, you are able to increase your company’s visibility and recognition in the community. A little bit of support for your community activities can go a long way in sustaining your employer’s recruitment abilities.

FULLFILLMENT

Can you say your job is fulfilling? While you may not necessarily find fulfillment in your workplace, a whopping 98% of survey respondents say they find volunteering fulfilling. The camaraderie, enthusiasm, and feeling of an accomplishment provide a nice break from our daily routines and give us satisfaction. It’s not our employer’s job to provide fulfillment for us, but supporting an outlet in which we do find it, is another step that employers can take towards retention. This is made clear, as 97% of survey respondents reported they would move to a company that supports their volunteerism. But what does employer support for your volunteer activities look like?

How Employers Can Support You

There’s a wide range of ways that employers can support community volunteerism. They might sponsor the conference, pay for your travel or hotel, help you submit a speaker proposal or create a slide deck. But the most prevalent employer support, at 62.3%, is in the form of paid time off. This constitutes PTO that is outside of your allotted sick time or vacation leave.

As you prepare to justify volunteering in the community to your employer, remember that you have a strong case. If you’re looking to gain their support, don’t feel like you’re asking them to fund your hobby. Engaging in the external community is a benefit to both you and the organization that employs you. By supporting your endeavors they stand to benefit from your enhanced skillset and professional development, while also boosting their employer brand in the community and bettering their ability to recruit and retain top tier cyber security talent.

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 07, 2019 5:11 pm

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