Hey Alec, good question! It's quite tough to approach someone with a telephone or electronic "cold call", get their attention, and convince them that they should connect with you or give you an "informational interview". However, it can be done through some specific actions and refining your skills in doing so. Here's some ideas:
- First of all, in-person contact is always best (and generally most productive!) So, consider finding some Meet-up Groups in your area (if possible) and showing up for meetings in areas you're interested in. You will meet professionals in that field and like-minded individuals who will likely be more open to discussing and connecting with.
- Check if your college or school has a mentoring program, perhaps through your major department. This can be a great way to make helpful connections.
- Use LinkedIn like this: First, expand your network as possible, then look for companies working in areas of interest and watch when LinkedIn shows that someone in your network has connections to that company. If it's a first or second degree connection, contact your network connection and ask him/her to put you in touch with the second or third level connection, with the request that you'd like to chat with him/her for career advice or to answer some quick questions.
- Join a professional organization (for example, IEEE, ACM, and the like. Many have "student rates" for membership, and local section meetings, too, where you can meet and converse with professionals again.
In short, try and maximize your opportunities "to be out there" and participating! The more you can meet, mix, and chat with others, the more likely it is that you'll make connections and valuable contacts. And one other important word of advice: Have some personal cards that you can hand out to the people you meet, so they remember you later, and know how to get in touch or connect with you on-line! Cards are still one of the best methods to finish a conversation in such a fashion that the other person can follow up on it later!