Volunteerism Offers Many Benefits

Posted by Kathleen Smith

volunteersWe live in a fast-paced world and everyone has a busy life. Demanding schedules of work and family can make it hard to meet day-to-day obligations, yet alone spend time as a volunteer. However research indicates that volunteering can offer tremendous benefits, including finding a sense of purpose.

Yet with all of these busy lives you will find that many, if not most, conferences and programs in the cyber security community are completely volunteer run. In the cyber security community, you don’t need to commit an extraordinary amount of time in order to reap the benefits. Spending just a few hours a month has been shown to offer many substantial benefits such as learning new skills, building an industry network, and even finding a new job.

Recently, assisted by a network of security conferences globally including Security BSides, HackInParis, and HackWestCon, conducted a global survey among industry professionals who spend time volunteering at cyber security conferences and other activities in the cyber security community. The purpose of this survey was to find out more about community volunteering efforts, employer support for volunteering, and how volunteering contributes to the development of professional skills.

Over 55% of respondents have been volunteering more than 4 years and more than 50% give at least 8 hours of their time per month. Volunteer activities outside of work and family commitments demand more from professionals, as these are non-paid activities that are done purely to provide programs and events that add value to the community.

This level of volunteer commitment is a clear statement that volunteers find value in their efforts. When someone is looking to volunteer, it’s important to think about what will give you the most satisfaction, what mission you want to support, and who you will be working with. Look for opportunities that match your interests, but also maybe look to support the skills you would like to develop.

Initially, many professionals tend to stay within one category of volunteer work such as security, registration, or website design, but there are many other areas to build confidence and skills that will assist in career development. These opportunities include securing sponsorships, managing volunteers, public speaking, and conflict management.

33.7% work with at least two different organizations and 30.7% work with four or more. From local Meetups to national conferences, there are a wide variety of organizations that would benefit from your participation and offer the experience you desire. Many volunteers start with a local activity, develop skills and progress to larger opportunities. Don’t pigeonhole yourself; explore all the possibilities.

The majority of volunteers at 41.6% volunteer the day of an event helping with speakers and logistics. It is difficult to put in the time day in and day out beyond work and family activities, so many volunteers commit to volunteering just the ‘day of’. These volunteers provide a much-needed burst of energy and enthusiasm to volunteers who have been working all year long to make an event or program happen.

If you can’t volunteer other than the ‘day of’, there are many skills that you can develop including speaker liaison, registration, security, and network operations. Even with ‘day of’ volunteering you can still develop skills and progress in your volunteer development. Research the opportunities and jump in where you are most comfortable.

Over 82% are employed and over 80% of those have an employer who knows they spend time volunteering and supports their efforts. The most prevalent employer support, at 62.3%, is in the form of paid time off. Volunteering in the community has become a must have benefit for employees in the information security and cyber security communities.

Savvy employers know that their employees can build great skills through their volunteer work. They also know that having their employees volunteering in the community reflects well on the employer. This is part of building their Employer Brand and helps with retention and recruitment.

Check with your current or future employers to see if your organization will support your volunteer time away from the office. Employers, if you are looking for a way to retain your employees or recruit great talent, you may want to re-examine your support of volunteer activities and organizations.

The most reported skills that respondents say they take away from volunteering include teamwork, organizing, planning, and communication skills. Without specific tasks, it is difficult to build key nontechnical skills. While most professionals are looking to build their technical skills, there is an abundance of nontechnical skills employees and employers are looking for. Through volunteering, professionals are learning valuable skills, sometimes without even knowing it.

The “got to get the job done” mentality with all volunteering efforts requires individuals to learn new skills so that everyone benefits. And these skills are valuable in your career search. Be sure to outline your volunteer work and responsibilities on your resume and social media profiles, and include in your interviews key opportunities where you learned a new valuable skill that makes you perfect for that next job.

While slightly over 50% find volunteering stressful, a whopping 98% say they find volunteering fulfilling. As we all deal with stress in our lives, volunteering provides both stress and fulfillment. The camaraderie, the enthusiasm, and the feeling of an accomplishment help make volunteering fulfilling. Many times, we do not find this fulfillment in our work and it is a nice break to find this satisfaction elsewhere.

The friendships and networks that are built through volunteering help bridge many of the impacts of isolation that may be experienced in the information security community. Any project will come with a bit of stress, but can you say that the stress you encounter professionally is always fulfilling? Be sure to look at volunteering to complement your professional life to add diversity into your normal routine.

95% believe that volunteering improves networking and social skills, while 94% feel that their volunteer work has a positive impact on the industry. Without even knowing it, volunteering provides numerous professional and personal skills that job seekers hope to develop. Many of the personal stories include professionals who considered themselves introverts but were able to finally come out on their own with gained confidence.

Having a variety of opportunities to interact and learn new duties provides numerous skill-building moments. Everyone wants to make a difference. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to meet that goal. And while you may not be looking for a job at the moment, the time will come when an expanded industry network will benefit your career growth.

As you can see from these results, volunteering in the community has an impact on your career and can provide overall personal fulfillment. The professional fulfillment is threefold:

  1. You can take pride in contributing to the industry that has shaped your professional life. Your efforts help many others grow in new ways and you will build relationships that last a lifetime.
  2. You benefit from contributing to projects that fuel your career trajectory by developing qualities that include leadership, persistence, time management, delegation, project management, and problem solving.
  3. The network that you build through volunteering can support you in your career search and development.

And if you are an employer who would like to retain and recruit talent in the cyber security community, consider these tips for your employees:

  • Encourage volunteering by providing paid time off for community activities.
  • Find out which activities or events your employees attend or support and then look into sponsoring these activities.
  • Provide support for your employees who want to submit proposals and speak at conferences.

To help jump start your volunteer work, here are a few organizations that could use your time and offer a rewarding experience:

BSides is a community-driven framework for building events for and by information security community members.

Wreaths Across America has a mission to remember, honor, and teach.

The Diana Initiative is a computer security conference aimed at supporting women in cyber security.

HackWest is the newest hacker/infosec convention based in Salt Lake City.

Cyber Security Community Vo… by on Scribd

This entry was posted on Friday, August 24, 2018 2:39 pm

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