By Jack and Suzy Welch
FORTUNE -- Once upon a time – i.e., eons ago – one of us had a summer internship that mainly involved playing golf with the boss, who appreciated the company of a college kid with a single-digit handicap. Not much work got done, but it didn't seem to matter, particularly to the boss. The other one of us (the one whose handicap is so obscene it can't be printed in a family publication) once had a summer job that revolved around asking, "Would you like your eggs bagged separately?" It was boring, sure, but the hours were great if hitting the pool is your kind of thing.
As the song goes, "Those were the days, my friends. We thought they'd never end…."
Well, they did. They really, really did. Today, due to economic conditions that need no explanation, most college grads have to fight and claw for entry-level jobs in their chosen fields, and many, perhaps as many as 25%, aren't even able to get a well-shined shoe in the door.
So say goodbye to your father's, or even your older brother's, summer internship, when the office was, for all intents and purposes, where you passed the time between weekends at Cape Cod, and the best thing about going to work each day was that it meant -- hallelujah! -- you weren't going to classes or taking exams.
Say hello instead to a summer that offers what might be your best hope of landing a real, live job upon graduation. That is -- if you can just remember two little things.
O.K., maybe they aren't little.
The first is to be keenly aware of who is courting whom this summer. Sure, the cheerful hiring people might have assured you that your internship is designed to introduce you to the company's wonderful staff and culture and help you gain valuable industry experience, which is all well and good. Take that stuff in. But the bottom line is that, whether you're working at an investment bank or a radio station, your summer internship should be more about giving than getting. Indeed, it should primarily be about you giving a helluva performance, over-delivering, making an impression with your insightful, unexpected ideas and terrific, sweat-the-details kind of output that prompts people to say, "Holy Cow, this kid really wants it."
You need to do stuff that makes your boss look like a hero. Suggest a small process improvement, come up with a cool packaging idea, offer deep-dive insights into a customer segment. Do something, anything, that might make your boss think, "It would really stink if this kid worked at one of our competitors." That's the kind of wow you're after…every single day. More
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