CFO Therese Friberg shares her career tips

She’s inspired by Astrid Lindgren, not afraid to stand out and doesn’t dwell on setbacks – our CFO Therese Friberg opened up about her own experiences as she mentored young women last week.

Seeking career advice, women aged 18-25 joined from countries including Brazil, Jordan, Macedonia, Italy, Tunisia, Germany and Sweden. The virtual mentoring event was hosted by Electrolux 100 Women – a grassroots initiative launched last year at Electrolux to provide career mentoring to women.

“This event gave me more hope that many things are possible and that I should widen my perspective in addressing what I want to be doing with my life. I also loved how diverse the attendees were. It gave me a moment of power that I am connected to other ladies who want to change something, whether in their lives or the world,” said mentee Israa Ben Abdallah.

The event, held last week, was announced on the International Day of the Girl in October.

Therese’s top tips:

Therese has worked at Electrolux for twenty years and is the youngest member of Group Management. She has held the position of CFO for two years. So, what are her top tips for getting ahead? Here are some of the highlights:

Q. You said: “I don’t think being a woman is an issue. I am who I am.” Tell us why you think like this and how has it impacted your approach to your career?

A: We all have different personalities with strengths and weaknesses and it’s about how to take advantage of and utilize your strengths and also how to identify and work on your improvement areas. To me, gender is not really a relevant personality characteristic and nothing I wish to change or work on. If anything, I would see it as positive in the sense that it’s an opportunity to stick out in the sea of black suits.

I also think most people I meet enjoy working in a diverse environment and I can contribute to that in a positive way.

Q: Who inspires you? Can you name a person internationally that you look up to and why?

A: One person who has inspired me as I grew up is our famous Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, both who she was as a person but also through her books in which young female characters such as Pippi Longstocking stand out as being strong and different than the traditional role model. She shone the light on role models who were out of the ordinary women or young females and I think that’s an important message for young girls growing up that’s it’s ok to stand out and do things your own way.

Q: Do you think that being a female leader there is more pressure? Are females in the public eye more criticized when they fail because of gender?

A: When I’m at work, I don’t even see myself as a woman. My gender is not relevant for who I am at work or how I manage my job. So, in that sense this is a question I would not even ask myself. It might be a naive or ignorant approach, but I think it has been working well so far. I also believe or hope that if I don’t make a big deal about it that it will be a less important topic for others as well.

Q: When applying for a job, should we look for female leaders? What are the signs of a good leader?

A: I think a good leader is an inclusive leader that is eager for people to get seen or heard for who they are and their respective competences and skills – and in my experience that is not dependent on them being a male or female leader.

I personally like leaders who embrace development, want to stretch their employees and make them shine. I also like leaders that dare to be challenged as I think that indicates a maturity and a wish for them to continue to develop. No one is ever perfect or complete.

Dare to ask questions in an interview – you can see how much the manager will want to involve you and wants to listen to what you have to say. And a recruiting manager will appreciate you for having your own questions and thoughts. 

Q: What’s your tip for increasing self-confidence?

A: Take a look back sometimes at what you have done and achieved instead of always being self-critical.

Also, step out of your comfort zone and take on challenges. Success outside of your comfort zone builds confidence so stretch yourself and the next time you will be less scared.

Make sure you have a job that you think is fun – you will always do a better job if you have fun, which creates a positive spiral. That will boost your self-confidence.

Q: What matters to you when reading a CV, especially if it’s a CV of someone starting out in their career where work experience is more limited?

A: Generally, it is important in a CV to point out what kind of result you have accomplished but early in a career that is quite difficult, so then I look more for general characteristics such as indications of ambition and drive – are you doing something valuable in your free time for example? I also look for curiosity, learning ability, signs of willingness to develop and especially working for such a large, global company I want to know if that person is keen to collaborate.

Q: Do you have any job interview tips?

A: Be honest and be yourself and don’t be shy when it comes to talking about your strengths.  Here I still see a difference between men and women where men are sometimes better at exaggerating their strengths and women are sometimes downplaying them.

Also, don’t practice too much before the interview – don’t have prepared answers or at least not written down. It usually shows through if you have prepared answers in advance then you’re not answering the exact question but turning the answer into something else (like a politician) which is very awkward.

My interview strategy is to start by asking one question they won’t expect, then to see if they are caught off guard or can handle the situation.

Q:There are always career setbacks. What’s your advice on dealing with these?

A: You need to take a step back or sideways sometimes. It can help you learn and feel confident in situations. If you don’t have those and you go high, then the tougher it gets if you don’t have that experience.

If you can learn something from the experience or feedback, then see it as a great development opportunity. But if not – be disappointed for one day and move on! I know it sounds easy – you just have to practice a little bit.

Q: How can I have an international career and what do multinational companies look for?

A: Look out for English-speaking companies. Electrolux is a good example here. We have English as our main language which makes it easy to travel to other geographies. You can lean on speaking English and survive. At our Swedish HQ we have very few meetings where I could talk Swedish as we have over 60 cultures in the building.

Also, teamwork and collaboration are key. You need to be curious about how to fit in with other cultures and so forth. If you want to actually move to another Country for a role – then the pressure is higher for you to deliver so you must show you have ambition and drive.

Q: Are there career age limits? Is 27 too old to get started?

A: No! The key is to continue to develop and keep an open mind and keep the curiosity. There are no age limits, and I can say for me it felt good to turn 40 as then I know what I want and can stand up for it.