Agency Spotlight: Distinguished Domestics

Distinguished Domestic logo 2015Awarded the DEMA Agency of the Year award in 2012, Distinguished Domestics is highly respected in the industry.  Located just outside Beverly Hills, California, they are an agency for professionals that truly enjoys the work they do. Respect is the name of their game, and Elise Lewis was kind enough to tell us more about her agency.

1.            How long have you been in business? 

I started my first agency in Los Angeles in 1988, pre computers and before anyone had ever heard of an Estate Manager.  After the birth of my third child I decided to sell the agency.  One year later, in 1990, I opened Kensington Nannies, Ltd. which is still in existence and the parent company to Distinguished Domestic Services.

2.            What makes your agency unique? 

I think what makes our agency stand apart from the rest is the passion that I have for what I do.  Coming in to the office each day doesn’t feel like work to me, I truly enjoy my profession and would not trade what I do for any other job.  I treat each candidate with the utmost of respect regardless if they are applying for a housekeeping position or a $250K Estate Manager’s position.  I value the experience that each professional has acquired over their years of working at private residences.  When meeting with candidates, I give them my undivided attention so that I can truly get to know them and make a long term placement for them.  In addition, I have a very loyal longtime client base, most of whom refer other clients; I have a large “word of mouth” reputation in Los Angeles, which I feel blessed to have.  At this point in my career and based on my years of experience, I try not to work with a client who I know will be trouble and treat their employee’s unfairly.  Also, after years of experience in this field, I am not intimidated to ask details concerning the “vibe” of the Employers demeanor and the working environment.  I am a true employee advocate.

3.            What types of positions do you place? 

We place most positions in a private residence.  Estate Managers, House Managers, Butlers, Drivers, Chefs, Couples, Gardeners, Facility Maintenance Personnel, Personal Assistants, Handymen, Security, Companions, Housekeepers and Nannies.

4.            What is your ideal candidate? 

My ideal candidate is someone who truly enjoys their line of work, is honest, has great references and is willing to commit to a long term placement.

5.            Do you place across the country or locally?  If so where. 

We place all over the country for our clients who are willing to pay relocation; it is usually for the big jobs on an Estate (Estate Managers and/or couples).  Most of our placements are in Southern California and primarily in the Los Angeles area.


6.            Do you look for any special training or certifications, such as college degrees, private service schools, etc.?

The degrees/certificates that each candidate has are always a bonus.  We do not require them as criteria to register with us.  However, we do receive specific requests attached to the job order from our clients who may require certain education be mandatory for eligibility.  Our requirement to register with our agency is a minimum of three years’ experience in the field in which you are applying to, with verifiable references.

7.            Where do you announce your open jobs? 

We post them on our website and occasionally we will put them on LinkedIn and/or send out a tweet.  For some of the national searches, we also post on the DEMA website, The Caretakers Gazette website and The Domestic Herald website.

8.            How should a candidate apply for a job? 

Do you want an online application, resume or both?  We have a form on our website that a candidate can fill out which we check daily, if they meet our requirements then we send them our full application.  It is always best to send us a resume as an email attachment.  If they are already a registered applicant, they can either call our office or send us an email.

9.            Do you belong to any professional associations?  

We are a member of DEMA (Domestic Estate Managers Association) and we were awarded The Agency of Year award in 2012.  I have also attended conferences for APNA (Association for Professional Nanny Agencies) and INA (International Nanny Association).

10.          How can people contact you?

We are in the office every day Monday – Friday 9am-5pm.  We welcome phone calls, but would prefer receiving an email with a resume prior to a phone call.  In today’s day and age, emails are a 24/7 thing.

Coming Soon: The 2015 Guide to Private Service Agencies and Educators

job seeker guide.After several months of development, The Personal Touch Career Services will be releasing the “2015 Guide to Private Service Agencies and Educators” within the next week.

The 2015 Guide to Private Service Agencies is a lists over 20 of the most recognized firms in the United States.  Since 2012, we have been contacting agencies and asking them the same core questions to highlight their target candidates and standard procedures.

Wondering which agencies are willing to work with new household managers? Want to know more about the best local sources for nannies, housekeepers, and support staff?  Interested in the different geographical placement territories that each agency covers?  Then this eBook is for you!

New for 2015: we have added a section specifically for the Educators, including traditional schools like Starkey International and the Charles MacPherson Academy as well as the workshop-based intensive studies offered by Bonnie Low-Kramer, Peter Van Ryder, and others.

In addition to the schools and agencies, editor and career coach Donna Shannon shares valuable information on best practices when working with agencies on your next placement.

COST: FREE – just sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive your copy!

Already own the 2012 Guide?  Email us at  for a free copy of the 2015 edition

Meyer Suite – Upcoming classes

We’ve spoken before on an educator for our private service professionals called the Meyer Suite here and what sets them apart from other educators in the industry. With a focus around personal assistants, they offer a course called “Personal Assistant 101,” which primarily is held in Seattle.  When we last spoke with them, a lot of talk was thrown around about different venues upcoming in 2015, and they did not disappoint.

“You will not find this type of workshop elsewhere. If you’re curious about what it means to be a personal assistant, if you’ve wondered how people get these kinds of jobs, if you know you’d be really, really good at it, but can’t seem to land the jobs you apply for, you will find nothing else like this workshop, which is run by someone who has insider knowledge of both the employer and employee side of private service. . . someone who had zero industry connections, landed several high-profile PA positions, and now works with clients who seek top talent for personal service positions.

This workshop is not your ticket to a job as a personal assistant; you will have some work to do on your end. But it will give you an overview of the profession, answer questions you have, provide some advice on how to make yourself an attractive candidate for the role, and allow you to network with someone who works with clients who hire PAs. You will walk away with something you can add to the “education/training” section of your resume that night!”

–          Elizabeth Meyer, Founder of The Meyer Suite

Elizabeth will be teaching her esteemed Personal Assistant 101 two-hour workshop and info session designed by herself.  Elizabeth will talk about the profession, what it is and what it is not, and what it takes to make yourself an attractive candidate for this type of position.

Elizabeth works with clients who seek highly qualified Personal Assistants throughout the country, so this is not only a chance to learn about the profession, but to network with someone who seeks PAs for open roles.

The workshop will be taking place on Monday, March 9, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM in Chicago, IL. Purchase your tickets here:

How to quit your job

Most of us have had the fantasy before: storming out of the office, yelling “I’m not going to take it anymore!”  Sometimes the fantasy even includes telling each and every person along the way exactly what you think of them.  While this may be fine for daydreaming, most of us don’t dive into professional suicide with such flair.  Instead, we need to execute a specific strategy to maintain relationships while running out the door.

  1. Create a safety net

No matter if your dream is to land a new job, start a new business or finally write the great American novel, a safety net is the best idea.  Depending on your risk comfort level, the safety net means different things.  For one of my clients, his safety net is 4+ months of living expenses in his savings account.  For my 26 year old son, his net consisted of two part time jobs that cover his monthly expenses while giving him enough free time to explore more creative endeavors.

Determine what you need in that net.  When I stepped off of the corporate job in 2011 to run my business full-time, the trigger was when I realized that I had more money in my personal savings account than my struggling employer had.  At that moment, I realized I had just as much of a chance of being a success as they did.

  1. Devote time to your job search

Nothing is going to happen just by dreaming.  It takes a commitment to find a job or to change careers.  Plan specific time to go through the job boards, network on LinkedIn and research target employers.  Find what works best with your spare time.  If you’re a morning person, set your clock a little early to devote an hour a day to your search.  If you do best in the evening, be diligent about the search before getting distracted with social obligation or TV.

Sometimes, people worry about taking time away from their family to pursue the new career.  Explain to them that this really does benefit everyone.  You’d be surprised at the support you can get when being honest with them.

  1. Interviewing on the sly

Now being honest doesn’t extend to every part of the job search.  We can’t announce every single interview to our current employers.  Instead, we need to be just a touch sneaky.  For a while, you may have a lot of “doctor appointments,” at least until it looks like an offer is pending.  Some employers may let you go or pass over a promotion if they know you’re looking.

When applying to jobs, be sure to use this phrase in your cover letter:

“I can be easily reached at [cell phone number], however, please keep in mind that my job search is confidential.”

This lets the recruiters know that you may not be able to speak freely when they call.  Similar, it clues them in that your current employer may not be immediately available for a reference – that’s a sure-fire giveaway!

  1. Saying goodbye and cleaning up the mess

We all know that the two week notice is standard.  However, there is some other clean-ups we need to take into account.  First, write some instructions for the next guy to take your place.  This preserves the institutional knowledge that’s walking out the door with you.  Be sure to let them know that they can contact you with questions, at least for the next couple of weeks.

Second, be sure to get Recommendations on your LinkedIn profile from your good contacts before you leave.  It’s harder to capture Recommendations after you’ve left.  Be sure to leave reciprocal recommendations, at least for the people who deserve them.

Third, “unfriend” the people you hate.  Yes, that sounds harsh, but it’s a much better solution than telling them off face-to-face.  An exception to this rule may be a boss who left you a LinkedIn Recommendation.  There is just such a nice sense of satisfaction to getting rid of that annoying person who ate smelly tuna next to your cube every day.

Not sure how to delete a contact in LinkedIn?  Go to your Connections, roll over the person’s listing, and go to the “More” setting under their headline.  When you click on the downward triangle, it brings up the option to “Remove Connection.”  Voila, they are gone – and no, they don’t get a notice that you delete the connection.


Stay on the job search nice list this holiday


The Holidays are a great time to update your career documents

Ah, the holidays.  Lots of food, shopping and hanging out with family and friends.  However, too many people make a grave mistake: they put their job search on hold until January.  In fact, December is a great time to stay vigilant with your job search.  Use this list – and check it twice – to make sure that you stay on the “nice” list for your career…


  1. Spruce up your resume


Just like cleaning the house and trimming your Christmas tree, your job searching tools can use a bit of “holiday magic.”  When was the last time you really looked at your resume?  Does it have the relevant key word ornaments for your target job?  Does the presentation on the page look nice? Is it easy to read, while still conveying enough information to survive the HR screening process?


Sometimes, getting the opinion from others can give us an objective point-of-view.  Try to get your resume reviewed by people in your industry as well as family and friends.  Many resume writing services offer free reviews as well, but be sure to look for a mix of positive and negative feedback.  A resume service should not use a review as a way to bully you into buying a package.


  1. Writing letters to Santa


Okay, maybe you aren’t asking for a pony this year.  However, December is a good time to reach out to managers at target companies.  A well-written letter or email of introduction can help establish a new networking contact or start setting the stage for hidden jobs.  Don’t start off with a list of everything you want.  Instead, focus on what you can do for the company.  Can you make them money, save them money or solve problems?  Those are the topics that make managers perk up and take notice.


Didn’t get a response?  Don’t worry.  “Santa” got your message.  He just may be waiting until the time is right to reply. And sometimes that is when he recognizes your name on a resume for a job in January. There are twelve days of Christmas after all.


  1. Send your Christmas cards


Even if you aren’t sending literal cards, make the effort to reach out to your network.  This can be emails or messages through your social media.  Let them know that you appreciate them and are thinking of them.  Be sure to ask questions about how their life has been this year, not just hitting them with “well, I’m still looking for a job…”  Be positive, pleasant and encourage good will! No one wants to help a negative Grinch, especially in networking.


  1. Bake your cookies


Who doesn’t love cookies? In your job search, “cookies” are valuable things that you can give to your network.  This could be sharing an article, making a connection or reviewing their resume.  The point is that when you share your cookies, people are more likely to share their cookies as well. Not to mention that it takes effort to build a strong network, and sharing meaning content helps reinforce it.


  1. Get off the naughty list


Do you have some, ah, “questionable” content on your social media?  Now is the perfect time to clean that up and get off of the naughty list.  Just be sure that pictures from wild holiday parties don’t surface, and that includes posts from other people that tag you.


  1. Evaluate your job search to set new resolutions


How has your job search gone so far?  Do you know your numbers?  In general, you should know how many resumes you’ve sent compared to the number of landed interviews.  How about successful social media contacts? How many people are reading your posted content?


If any of these numbers seem off, plan on doing something different next year.  Maybe you need to take a class.  Perhaps the networking needs more effort.  Whatever the case may be, start planning your January strategy now.




How to become the Van Helsing of the Modern Job Search

van helsingIf you are creeping through this Halloween hunting the ever-elusive job monster, it is important to arm yourself with more than just a simple resume. You never see vampire hunters without their whole toolkit of stakes, garlic, holy symbols and a vast repertoire of knowledge on how to hunt the undead – at least not ones that make it to the credits of the movie. Like Van Helsing, you ought to familiarize yourself with your query and its environment if you want to survive.


That environment has changed and will continue to do so with advancements in technology and the development of more sophisticated social networking techniques.


Below are six scary facts of the modern job search. Familiarize yourself with them and become an expert “Job Search Slayer” This Halloween.


1.  HR witches and how to get past them

In almost every company, the lowest level HR people do the majority of the screening – or worse, they rely on computer screening programs to eliminate a majority of the candidates. Because of this, if you aren’t using the right key words, your resume will not make it far enough in the process to reach a decision-maker or even a human being.  Think of these key words as your “Magic Passwords” To get closer to your target job. Without them, you won’t make it past the coven and their screening hexes.


2. HR departments use tricks – not treats – to cut candidates

Ever wonder why a company would use a complex set of instructions to just apply to the job?  They are using those instructions to screen people out.  If you can’t follow the written instructions, they deem that you are not worthy of an interview.  Unfortunately, this tactic often cuts qualified candidates. Pay attention to the rules in any job posting to survive this cut.


These tricks are a lot like traps in a dungeon that kill nonobservant Slayers with pitfalls in the floor. If there is an instruction to only step on red tiles on the floor, you would be best served to follow those instructions, least you fall into a pit-trap yourself.


3. Competition is vicious – just like a zombie hoard

It’s no secret that unemployment is high.  To give you perspective, your competition for any job out there is around 300-500 for any posted job.  Yipes!  Trying to break away from the hoard can be tough… and all the more reason why you want to get your resume to the hiring manager, not just the HR department.  They are getting overrun from people trying to pick their braaaiiinnnssss…


4. Ghosts of your past can haunt future chances

If you have been laid off or fired in the past, be prepared to answer these questions in the interview. It doesn’t mean that it is impossible to get another job. You must reconcile your own personal feelings about the event in order to talk about it in a constructive manner.  Let those emotions of bitterness, resentment, sorrow and shock “walk into the light.”


Many Slayers have a haunted past, it is up to you to learn from that past to make yourself better equipped to get the Job Monster.

5. Employment websites are a “Monster”

While CareerBuilder does have more jobs posted in general, any of the major employment websites are not the be-all, end-all for job leads.  In fact, this is where the competition is fiercest.  Consider looking in creative places for job postings.  For example, in most LinkedIn Groups, there is a tab for “Jobs.”  Look for the “Job Discussions,” not just the posted jobs. This is where recruiters are posting their jobs for free!  Plus, they are more likely to take a closer look at your resume and LinkedIn Profile- after all, they are trying to judge the effectiveness of posting jobs this way.


6. Don’t suck your network dry

Like a vampire latching on to the neck of its victim, you can ask too much from your network.  Networking is important, but you must build a relationship before asking for favors.  One common scenario is making a connection with someone on LinkedIn, just to ask them to forward your resume to a hiring manager.  No new acquaintance is going to do this!  Instead, ask them about their job and their opinions about the company.


Another draining activity is spamming your network with too many messages.  It’s ok to send a reminder every month that you are still looking; it is not acceptable to send a message every 3-5 days.  Don’t be spam – build genuine relationships, be helpful to others, share meaningful information and be a friend before asking favors.


Your network ought to be familiar with you, like a team of Slayers that help each other professionally to get their own Monsters. You can’t be a burden on your team, or they will stop helping you. When they stop helping you, you become a lone Slayer where your success becomes more and more difficult to obtain.

Donna Shannon chosen as DEMA 2014 Educator of the Year

DEMA educator of the year Donna Shannon

Donna Shannon’s Educator of the Year award

At the 2014 Domestic Estate Managers Association (DEMA) Convention in Orlando, Florida, Donna Shannon was awarded the Educator of the Year for the national organization. This is the third year that the association has granted the award.

The Educator of the Year Award goes to the school or individual who brings to the industry new candidates of exceptional caliber. Individuals who provide continued training / mentoring within the industry are also given this prestigious award. DEMA seeks out Educators who promote high standards in positive teaching practices: curriculum that evolves with the industry, creative learning environments that promote the ideals of DEMA, standardized procedures, and promotion of the industry as a profession of excellence.

The Domestic Estate Management Association is a worldwide educational association for the Private Service Community. DEMA was founded in 2007 and is based out of Southeast Michigan in the United States. The Domestic Estate Management Association was created to provide a forum for Private Service Professionals and certified service vendors interested in better serving & protecting the best interests of their clients. The fundamental purpose of the association is to raise industry standards.

As a certified service vendor, the Personal Touch Career Services successfully passed a rigorous screening procedure that is required for all companies seeking membership. All vendors also agree to honor the DEMA Vendor Code of Ethics. We have been a member since 2011.

For those of you who were unable to attend the Convention, following is a copy of the acceptance speech:

First of all, thank you very much for selecting me for this honor. It was quite a surprise, and I feel rather humble about it.
When I found out I was getting this award for Educator of the Year, I was a bit surprised. I don’t generally think of myself as an educator, and certainly not on the level of Charles McPherson, Bonnie Low-Kramer and Peter Van Ryder. Then I spoke with Reid Kirkpatrick, our Denver DEMA chapter president. He pointed out that when I work with a client, whether on a resume or for coaching, I take the time to really explain the WHY behind the tactics. I want them to know how to use the tools for their job search, not just give them a document.
My own background comes from Human Resources and recruiting. I started teaching job searching classes in 2004 because I was tired of seeing so many qualified applicants being cut just because they didn’t know how the hiring process worked. That experience and my work with individual clients lead to my position in the placement office at The Starkey International Institute for Household Management, which is how I got involved in private service.
Back in 2009, I hit a crossroads. I was working for a biodiesel company while teaching job searching classes in Denver on the side. Occasionally, I would work with individual clients, including private service professionals. I had left Starkey International two years before that, and I wasn’t quite sure what my next move was going to be.
My classes weren’t drawing very many students. However, I was producing so many materials for these four hour workshops that it was becoming cumbersome. I needed to make a choice: either turn everything into a real book, or give up this whole career coaching business and settle on real job in the HR industry.
It wasn’t an easy choice.
Finally, I had to ask myself what was my passion. For me it was seeing people’s face light up as they learned something new. Suddenly, they didn’t think something was wrong with them – it was just their job searching tactics that were preventing them from gaining the jobs they really wanted.
So I took the plunge and wrote my book, “Get a Job Without Going Crazy.”
I guess you could say the rest was history.
Of course I have learned from others along the way, or it would not be possible for me to do what I do. . Without the lessons I learned at Starkey International, I wouldn’t be able to guide others. Members of my staff like Latricia Friend help me with their own personal experience from working in the field. And of course DEMA is a highly valuable resource, keeping me up-to-date with ongoing developments in the industry.
I believe that life is a process of continual learning. When I stop expanding my own knowledge and proclaim myself as the one and only expert at anything that is when the world will pass me by. My final thought is this: learn something new every day. You never know when it will lead to your own next adventure.

Checklist: Getting Ready For the DEMA Convention

At the end of September, the Domestic Estate Managers Association (DEMA) will be holding its 3rd annual convention in Orlando, FL.  While most people are figuring out their travel details, it is just as important to prepare your professional image from resumes to business cards. To help you get ready, I’ve put together this simple checklist to make sure you make the best impression before, during and after the event:

1. Update your resume

Be sure that your resume is up-to-date and truly represents not only your skills and experience, but your unique personality as well.

2. Get a professional picture

In private service, pictures are critical.  Almost every single agency will request a picture, which is then forwarded on to the employers.  Plus, LinkedIn profiles that have a professional picture generate a much higher percentage of traffic from recruiters.

Spend the money and have a professional take your picture.  A digital headshot can cost between $75-$150, but it is one of the most cost-effective ways to invest in your job search.  Make sure that the photographer gives you the digital rights; this allows you to publish the picture on the web (for LinkedIn) or in print (for your resume).

3. Update your LinkedIn profile

This is an excellent time to update your LinkedIn profile.  Make sure it is clear, professional, key word rich and personable.  On the other side, be sure to mask details that would indicate who your principal is.  Instead, always refer to them as “Confidential Private Estate.”  Don’t use the business name, even if you have the owner’s permission.  This is seen by others in the industry as a breach of confidentiality.  Similarly, don’t list specific aspects of their estate.  For example, the resume may say: “manage a fleet of 50 luxury vehicles,” however, the LinkedIn profile should read “manage a substantial collection of luxury vehicles.”

4. Create professional business cards

Be sure to have plenty of business cards with you.  Include all your contact information, including the link to your LinkedIn profile. Some people choose to put their picture on the business card as well.  When meeting 200+ people over the course of 3 days, pictures will help jog memories.

5. Plan out your attire

Review the conference website.  What are their suggestions for attire?  Note that some of the events are business casual, while others are more formal.  Plan for flexibility.  Plus, don’t forget a sweater or some other warm option. Convention rooms in hotels are notorious for being chilly.

6. Preview the schedule

DEMA has done an excellent job of updating their schedules and speaker lists on their website.  Start planning now on what you want to see and do:


7. Contact agencies ahead of time and set appointments

Looking to make friends with agencies?  Start the relationship now.  When you email these agencies, point out that you will be at the convention.  Considering that most agencies place across the country, this is a rare opportunity for you to meet them in person.  Many people will schedule time to meet with individuals.  Plus, this year DEMA is hosting a job fair on Friday.  Get your name on the recruiters’ minds beforehand to have a more productive face-to-face meeting.

Are you prepared for the fall hiring season?

dog day job search

Don’t wallow in the dog days of summer

As summer is winding down, people are thinking of back-to-school preparations and anticipating the cooler weather. For job seekers, this change of seasons also signals the next surge of hiring before the end of the year. It may be tempting to get the last bits of relaxation through August, however, this is actually the perfect time to work on your resume, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles to be ready for the jobs posted in September and beyond.



Where did the jobs go – and are they really coming back?


You may have noticed that July saw less jobs being posted. This is because many of the HR team and the hiring managers have been on vacation. Beginning in August, employers become more serious about their own hiring needs. From September through mid-November, the job search market will heat up again. Many employers need to hire someone before the end of the year to retain their budget for the new person. Plus, it’s desirable to have someone on board before the holidays. That way, the employers can train them before they need to worry about the next hit of extended vacations in December.


What’s the rush?


Even though the majority of the jobs will be coming out in September and October, it takes time to prepare your resume and other materials. This way, you are ready to apply to moment that you see a job that is a good match. Most HR departments and recruiters gain the majority of their applicants in the first three days of the job posting. At that point, many companies will essentially cut off the considered applicants. However, they will rarely announce that the job is essentially closed. If you wait one to two weeks to send your resume because it still needs to be “tweaked,” you could be losing a great opportunity.


Social media is always out there


LinkedIn is even more important to the job search than ever before. It is now a standard practice for candidates to list the URL for their LinkedIn profile. Whether it is given or not, most recruiters will look at the candidate’s LinkedIn profile – sometimes before they even call for the phone interview. Here’s an even more intimidating thought: if you email someone and the receiving party has Outlook 2013, the program will automatically search for your LinkedIn profile. Like it or not, finding you is as simple as one mouse click. While working on your resume and cover letters, don’t forget to update the LinkedIn profile that goes with it.


Getting over the dog days


The dog days of August can drag on our motivation. It’s hard to get back into the swing of the job search, especially when the jobs haven’t appeared yet. But don’t be fooled. The next hiring season is nipping at your heels.

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