Wrong Number. No, really.
August 28, 2014 3:09 PM   Subscribe

I accidentally called a former colleague who's now working for the competition. She has since tried to call me several times and I think she might have interpreted my call as me showing an interest in coming to work for her.

I tried to call a colleague yesterday. The connection was bad, so I hung up the phone a few seconds into the call. When I was about to redial, I realized I had not called the person I was trying to reach but a former colleague, Jane. Jane has since called me back several times and left a voicemail saying how happy she was to hear from me and that she was hoping to speak to me soon. Jane left a while ago to join a competitor and has since recruited heavily from our team. I can't really think of a reason why she would be so eager to speak to me unless she thought I was interested in working for her. Regardless of whether that's the case, I don't really have anything to say to her, she's much more senior than me and we barely ever spoke when we worked together. I feel it would be incredibly awkward to tell Jane I didn't really mean to call her the other day. Would it be completely inappropriate to not call her back, but send her an email? And what should I tell her? Or is this just a networking opportunity and I'm overthinking?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I feel it would be incredibly awkward to tell Jane I didn't really mean to call her the other day.

Why ? It's what happened. Call her back, have a quick chat, and see what happens. She went to work somewhere else, she didn't contract ebola.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:12 PM on August 28, 2014 [34 favorites]

This is an awesome mistake. Call her and admit it was a misdial, catch up, be friendly, and see what happens next. It doesn't mean you're obligated to talk about working for her, or even that she'll make that approach. If it turns out she brings it up, and it doesn't sound like a good opportunity for you, be honest. Chances are she'll still be in your industry when you are looking to move on in the future, and having an established relationship with her can only help you.
posted by Mchelly at 3:18 PM on August 28, 2014 [44 favorites]

I feel it would be incredibly awkward to tell Jane I didn't really mean to call her the other day.

It's really not. Call her and tell her it was a misdial, hihowareyanicetotalktoyaokaybye and that's it. I mean, maybe she is trying to recruit you; if you're happy where you are, you can say thanks but no thanks, and if you're not, or even if you're just curious, chat with her.
posted by rtha at 3:28 PM on August 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, just call her back and laugh it off, and go ahead and catch up a bit. Even if you're happy in your current job and have no plans to leave it, it's not a bad thing to keep in touch. You never know what could happen in the future.
posted by darksong at 3:29 PM on August 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Why do you care whether she'd try to recruit you? Making more money is not so terrible.
posted by rhizome at 3:37 PM on August 28, 2014 [10 favorites]

She probably is itching to catch up on all the old workplace gossip. Call her! You obviously made a good impression on her, and good connections are always great to have.
posted by backwards compatible at 3:50 PM on August 28, 2014

Not at all awkward to call her back and clear up a little misunderstanding. Totally awkward to have her believe you called her, hung up, then never responded to her friendly message.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:57 PM on August 28, 2014 [13 favorites]

I strongly agree with Mchelly. I don't know what industry you're in, but in almost any industry, you will eventually realize that your network of colleagues and former colleagues is about the best thing you've got going for you, and it will really behoove you to stay in touch.

Also reading between the lines a little bit - the fact that she now works for a competitor matters almost not at all. Your post comes off a bit as if she is now with the "bad guys" and you "shouldn't" be talking to her. I know this is not explicit in your question, but it seems to have that whiff about it. Sorry if I'm misreading, but if you do sort of feel that way, I respectfully submit that you do NOT owe that much loyalty to your employer - they certainly do not feel that sort of loyalty to you. Stay in touch with the colleagues regardless of whether they now work for "the competition." Even if you never switch sides, one of you may move laterally and it would feel exceedingly stupid to let go of a connection just because you were temporarily on opposite sides of some (minor, in retrospect) divide.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 4:12 PM on August 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

Even if it's "that one competitor that is known to have terrible work life balance that you would not join in a bajillion years" -- even then -- don't sweat it, talk to her; it never hurts to have another friend in the biz, companies aren't homogeneous across time and organization, you might have other interesting things to mutually offer, etc. etc.
posted by batter_my_heart at 4:49 PM on August 28, 2014

Everyone here is right. Unless she was the sort of person that you would not want remembering you in a professional context then you should call her back, tell her it was a misdial and catch up. Networking is important!
posted by winna at 5:03 PM on August 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Why would you not at least "touch base" with her and see what she's got to say?
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:16 PM on August 28, 2014

Or is this just a networking opportunity and I'm overthinking?

Yes. Call her back, explain it was a misdial but that you are so happy to hear from her. Since you weren't close with her at work you can just ask about how her new job is going and see where the conversation goes from there.

Even if you aren't interested in working for the competition now, who knows what the future might bring? Sounds like she thinks you do good work and maintaining ties with such a person can't do you any harm.
posted by yohko at 6:16 PM on August 28, 2014

Call her back. It will be a thousand times more awkward when you meet her next if you just leave this hanging.

It will take 5 minutes, and it will be done. Just do it.
You have spent much more time worrying, writing this post, reading our responses - you can resolve this in 5 minutes. No matter how uncomfortable it is, it will be done.
posted by Flood at 4:40 AM on August 29, 2014

Oh, hi Jane, thanks for calling me back when the connection was so bad the other day. Sorry I didn't pick up at first, I was juggling phone calls with another colleague, I fat-fingered the phone and called you both at once. But it was serendipity - it's great to hear from you. How are things with you now? (ask about something other than her job, if possible, don't know if you know her well enough to know her kid's/dog's name, a hobby, etc) Oh, yeah, things here at CompanyA are good. Elaine in the cafeteria just had a baby. (or other social news, or "the cafe carrot cake is still the best cake I've ever eaten, but they just got a chocolate that comes close" Just some kind of non-business nonsense.)

Once she knows you didn't have a reason for calling her, she'll be glad you called but won't try to extend the conversation. From her perspective, she gets a call from an old colleague, it cuts out, and she (being a mover-shaker and networker) calls you back - immediately to try to pick up the same conversation, then leaves a message a few hours later just to acknowledge that she didn't hang up on you. Her job protocols as networker are now done, but the case isn't closed until you call up and close it.
posted by aimedwander at 6:22 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is a great opportunity for networking. Call her back and chat with her. Take some notes. Put it into your calendar to call her again 6 months from now. Staying in touch with colleagues is great for your career, and it seems like she was really happy to hear from you. It seems like a good thing to me!
posted by Ostara at 6:34 AM on August 29, 2014

It was a wrong contact dial but a happy mistake. Chat for a few minutes. If you don't want to be recruited, tell her you're happy where you are but it was nice to catch up.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:11 AM on August 29, 2014

It's also possible she's eager to speak to you because she enjoyed working with you, even if you weren't close. There are people I've had passing conversations or only official contact with at work that I've run into in a non-work context and had a good time.
posted by mikeh at 10:23 AM on August 29, 2014

Always embrace the opportunity to network. Jane sounds nice and could be a great connection for you down the road. Call her back, explain that you accidentally dialed her, but that you're delighed to be back in touch. You never know, she may have Job Charming for you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:01 AM on August 29, 2014

I accidentally pocket-dialed a former colleague while driving and singing along with some Broadway soundtrack and ended up leaving a message in his voice mail. He called the next day and I was embarrassed, but we had a nice chat and got caught up with each other's projects and even gave each other some good advice.

That was mortifying, but turned out swell.

Like others have said above, call her back. Fess up to making a wrong number, chat a bit, ta da. A little networking can do you good, even if you're not interested in jumping ship. It'll be more awkward down the road if you run into her and you hadn't returned her call.
posted by schnee at 11:09 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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