There’s a segment in my Mastering LinkedIn class that’s focused on using First-Degree Connections to meet Second-Degree Connections, one of the most important functions on LinkedIn.

My favorite part of this segment is showing people how many ways LinkedIn helps us uncover our mutual connections:

  • There’s the “Shared Connections” links on search results, People You May Know and other places across the site.
  • There’s the “How You’re Connected” map on the right side of every Second-Degree Connection’s profile page.
  • And just to be sure we don’t miss it, there’s the “Shared” Connections area toward the bottom of the Second-Degree Connection’s page.

LinkedIn clearly wants us to use the information, to use our our First-Degree Connections to make inroads with our Second-Degree Connections. There’s even a link that says “Get Introduced,” so that we can write a message to one of those mutual connections asking for help meeting the Second.

Except that it doesn’t work — and hasn’t since September, an apparent consequence of LinkedIn’s new messaging feature. The “Get Introduced” link is still there, but it doesn’t allow you to choose from your mutual connections, and instead takes you to the generic message center. (When it worked, “Get Introduced” allowed you to select the most promising shared connection from a list, and ask her by LinkedIn message for an introduction down the line.)

LinkedIn members have complained on the site’s help boards, and LinkedIn community moderators have acknowledged the issue, without saying when it will be fixed.

My take? So what. I was never a fan of “Get Introduced” anyway. I think people found it confusing, unsure whether their message to the First Connection would be seen by the Second. And sometimes, the requests just didn’t pan out.

I think the better approach is to contact your shared First-Degree Connection directly to ask for help.

Go to the Second-Degree Connection’s profile. Read it, to get a better sense of who they are. Scroll almost to the bottom of the page, where you’ll see an area called “Connections,” defaulted to the ones you share. Sometimes, this will be just one person. Sometimes, it’ll be many.

Choose the First-Degree Connection most likely to help (or the one most likely to be effective), and reach out by phone, or email, if you must. Explain the context for your request, what you want out of the introduction, and then follow his lead. You’ll probably pick up useful information about the person you’re trying to reach.

Most introductions are then executed by email. The First-Degree Connection emails the Second, and copies you. He explains who you are and why it makes sense for you to talk. And then you can follow up on your own. Reply-all to thank the First-Degree Connection, give the Second-Degree Connection some more information, and ask for a chance to talk.

It’s a great way to expand your network, and are frequently more effective than reaching out own your own.