Okay, enough frustrated people have recently asked me for help with this LinkedIn issue that I’m expediting a post about it!

If you’re a reasonably experienced LinkedIn user, you’ve probably realized by now that the “Get Introduced Through a Connection” feature of the site is pretty much the most powerful networking tool available these days.  Simply put, this option (which you’ll see on the right side of almost every person’s profile you pull up in the system) allows you to go through one of your trusted friends on the system to make contact with ANOTHER trusted friend of theirs — or the friend of a friend, in the case of a “3rd Degree” connection.  It’s the backbone behind LinkedIn’s revolutionary referral-generating potential.

As a free user of the site, however, you may have noticed that you’re limited to only sending five Introduction Requests out at any one time.

So what happens when you try to fire off a new Introduction, to somebody else you want to meet, and the system blocks you and tells you you’re out of Introduction slots?  Should you succumb to the hard-sell pitch that comes up, telling you to upgrade to a paid membership that will allow you send out even more Introductions?

The answer to the above question is usually “no.”  Most people who run into this barrier do so because they actually have some old Introductions (ones they’ve likely forgotten about) that are stuck “in progress” because they never received a final “yes” or “no” response by the target person in question.  When this happens, each of these outdated Intros permanently hogs one of your five free slots (okay, not permanently, but they don’t time out on their own for a whopping six months) and if you therefore don’t manually get rid of them, your capabilities as a free user will get severely hamstrung in a hurry!

The good news?  You can withdraw these over-ripe requests at any time you choose, freeing your five free slots back up.  The bad news?  It’s a surprisingly complicated and counter-intuitive process, as I recently discovered when I had to troubleshoot this issue for a few clients.  Here are the exact steps you’ll need to follow:

1.  Log into your Inbox and go to your “Settings” menu (hiding under your name in the top right of the screen); verify that you truly have “0 out of 5” Introduction slots left, just to make sure we’re talking about the right problem — and the appropriate solution

2.  Next, go to your “Inbox” menu on the main menu bar, and systematically click through the four folders on the left side of the page (Inbox, Sent, Archived, Trash) looking for Introduction requests that are marked “In Progress.”  To speed things up, click on the “All Messages” drop-down menu you’ll see on each page and change it to “Introductions” so that ONLY Introduction-related activities get shown

3.  Once you find any “In Progress” Introductions that are past their prime, and that you’re willing to abandon, here’s the key — DON’T DELETE THEM.  That won’t help in the slightest.  What you actually have to do is click on the Message Subject line (in blue) to open up the full message text, at which point you’ll then see a “Withdraw” button at the bottom.  Click that.  It will ask you to declare a reason for withdrawing the message, so pick one, hit the OK button, and voila — you’ll suddenly have one of your five free Introduction slots back.

4.  And if you DID accidentally delete some of your “In Progress” messages at any point, either just now or a while back, you’ll need to first find them in the “Trash” folder and UNDELETE them — then follow step #3, above.  You can’t withdraw them (for some reason) until you’ve first reinstated them to active, non-deleted status.

If this process sounds like a convoluted pain in the butt, trust me, it is!  And it’s laughable that LinkedIn would make it this important function so incredibly difficult.  Is this an intentional move on their part?  Are they trying to hide this capability so that people will be tempted (or tricked) into buying premium memberships, instead?  Sadly, I suspect this is the case, especially since this is fairly common problem and yet they’ve almost completely ignored it in their help database.

At the end of the day, there’s certainly nothing wrong at all with LinkedIn making piles of money — and there are some very legitimate reasons why certain people (alas, I’m not one of them) should sign up for a premium membership — but I don’t endorse people purchasing a $20-30 per month membership simply to try to regain some key functionality that LinkedIn promises to you as a free user.

Hope this article proves useful to some of you out there who have run into this problem…