Informational interviews are a great way to gather information about a profession or industry. They can be accomplished over the telephone or in person. My recommendation is to do them in person whenever possible as it seems more likely to me that you can build a stronger relationship when you are eye to eye and can appreciate the body language that goes along with the communication process.
Identify people who are in the profession, industry and/or company you are interested in. This is easily done using the advanced search feature on LinkedIn. You can send your request in a message through LinkedIn or you might be able to identify a common connection in your network who can introduce you. You can also visit the company web site and try to find contact information that way.
Be prepared for people to think that your request for an informational interview is a “soft ask” to be considered for potential employment opportunities. Since this is pretty much a given, it would be a good idea to send them your resume ahead of time along with your elevator speech and several questions pertaining to the industry or career field you would like to discuss during the interview.
An informational interview should be treated no differently that a formal interview for a job. By that I mean, you should show up on time (10 minutes early is better) and dressed professionally. Have your questions prepared ahead of time. This is your opportunity to learn first-hand from someone in the occupation. This is an interview that you are managing, rather than the other way around. Do your research on the company/industry so that you can speak intelligently about why you are a good fit for that industry/job.
Be sure to follow up after the interview by sending a thank-you note. Send a request to connect on LinkedIn. Six to eight weeks later stay connected by giving an update on your progress and ask for additional guidance if appropriate.
Whether you are a current student, new graduate or an experienced professional looking to make a career change, informational interviews are an excellent tool to add to your career toolbox.