By Eleni Demertzis

“The best competition I have is against myself, to become better.”

That’s a quote by the legendary basketball coach John Wooden that my dad instilled in me at a young age. It’s a mantra that has followed me through my career (and life) that motivates me to always be better, learn from my mistakes and experiences, and use them to hit the next chapter out of the park.

I learned I wasn’t alone in this hard-edged approach, when as a young intern for legendary political reporter Carol Marin, my task was to read her bi-weekly column in the Chicago Sun-Times and give her feedback about how it could have been written better. Marin didn’t necessarily need a green reporting intern to tell her much of anything, but this assignment reinforced for me that it doesn’t matter how “great” you are at what you do or how many years’ experience you have because you can always learn from others and continue to grow.

I took Carol’s same approach when I entered the cutthroat world of government and politics, continuing to find ways to better myself, learning from everyone around me (both good and bad) and becoming stronger personally and professionally.

Here’s a few valuable lessons I learned along the way about how to do my job better:

  1. Media: It’s about relationships. It is really important to get to know each reporter you plan to work with, and that blind pitching will likely get you nowhere. I spent time not only learning information on reporters’ unique writing styles, but also understanding their personalities, which allowed me to develop great relationships with some of Illinois’ best reporters – even when we agree to disagree!
  2. Speechwriting: Practice makes perfect. I reframed my approach to speechwriting after I spent a week drafting a City Club speech only for just a few sentences to make it into the final version. It takes time to capture someone’s voice, and it’s important to lock in key lines and priorities with the speaker before getting into the thick of the writing.
  3. Teamwork: Everyone plays a crucial role, no matter the job title. Another important lesson is that being a team player will make you indispensable to the operation. I’ve watched folks be “above” making copies for a junior staffer who was in a pinch or not willing to handle a menial task when the office’s assistant needed help. Everyone on the team plays a crucial role, regardless of their title or task, and it is critical that all are willing to work together to help reach the shared goal of success.

I expect these lessons will continue to prove valuable at this new point in my career path, as I venture into the world of public affairs with Culloton + Bauer Luce. It’s a new arena for me, advocating for clients in the private sector, but I know the qualities I have attained so far will continue to help me excel, but I also know that I will continue to grow and better myself, learning from my new teammates, to become the best that I can be — and keep knocking the next one out of the park.