Experiencing several of her own career shifts, going from single in the city to suburban mom of four in less than five years, and knowing when to pivot and reinvent her work, our NJMOMpreneur of the week Allison Task knows a thing or two about transition. This Montclair mom and career and life coach helps women envision, focus in on, and execute their next chapters, both personally and professionally. From running her own cooking school, to hosting television series, to helping her clients conquer change on their own terms, she lives up to her own inspirational mantra of living life with purpose and passion and knowing when it’s time for rebirth or reinvention. We sat down with this change maker to talk about the importance of a finding a tribe, her best advice for taking the leap into a new chapter, and some of her favorite family finds for fun around New Jersey (we’ve added Cape May’s Thunder Cat Dolphin Watching to our must-do list).
featured image via Nick Levitan
Career/Life Coach & NJMOMpreneur Allison Task
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Allison: I’m a transition coach, and I specialize in career and life shifts – the bigger, the better. Things like becoming a stepmom, finding new work after being fired, shifting a career after becoming a parent, #adulting. I typically work with a client on more than one transition at a time.
I have a private practice in Montclair and my clients love my whiteboard wall – that’s where the magic happens. After I capture my client’s insights on the wall, my client can lean back in and make sense of the thoughts – which are true or false; which they want to discard, and which we should elevate.
My clients want to change their lives; that’s why they hire me. They leave dead-end jobs in favor of “that thing they’ve always wanted to do”. They get pregnant, married, stop the “should” rhetoric and have lives that are consistent with their values. Together, we make change happen in accordance with their values. That’s my key differentiator: together, we make change happen.
Our gutsy attitude and sense of humor are our biggest strengths. We know how to not take life too seriously and enjoy what we do have. Find the gratitude, experience the joy, be alive in your life. It really is that simple.” -NJMOMpreneur, Allison Task
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Allison: I used to run a private cooking school called The Wooden Spoon. I’d give private cooking lessons in client’s homes, and inevitably the conversation would come around to their personal life – their husband, their job, their divorce – I found these conversations more interesting than chopping shallots. These folks didn’t want therapy, but they would describe their aspirations and the experiences they wanted out of life. I wanted to help them, but wasn’t sure how. They hired me to teach them how to make a roast, not set personal goals. Around that time, I found myself thumbing through NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies catalog and I found their coaching program. It was a real “Eureka!” moment for me. And so I enrolled in the one year program and every class felt right. I haven’t looked back since.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Allison: People choose to partner with me through the most important transition of their lives. I feel humbled by this role. I love helping my clients bridge the transition from A to B. I love seeing them surprise themselves with their own courage, creativity and joy. There’s a bit of a birth/rebirth theme, kind of like a doula.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Allison: I received my coach certification from NYU 15 years ago, so I’ve been coaching for a long time. I’m a huge coaching geek, and I hold myself to a high standard for continuing education. I read at least a book a week on the topic. Right now I’m deep into a classic – Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. I have a PCC from the International Coaching Federation and am currently taking Jon Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR meditation program at UMass. I attend the ICF’s global biannual conference regularly, and will be attending in Prague this October. My life also prepared me to coach people through transitions. In my 20s, I worked in dot com, then left to go to culinary school. In my 30s, I became a bit of a food personality, wrote cookbooks, and hosted shows on Lifetime, TLC and Yahoo. Then I transitioned into coaching. So I’ve made a couple of career transitions myself.
In my personal life, I married “late”, at 39, and became a stepmom. I then proceeded to have three additional children in one and a half years. So in less than five years, I went from single gal in the city to a suburban mom with a house full of kids who are now ages 5 to 17. And I’m still married! My husband and I will celebrate 8 years this fall, which is a big deal, as 70% of marriages with kids from a prior relationship end in divorce in the first 5 years. So let’s say this ain’t my first rodeo.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Allison: I’m most proud of enjoying each thing I did to the fullest, and leaving when I was no longer engaged. When I was cooking, I loved it. And when I was ready to move on, I did so without reservation. I knew when I was engaged, and I knew when it was time to move on.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Allison: I’m spending 2019 sober. I’m a big drinker – I love martinis, manhattans and rosé, believe me. But I started to look at all the drunk mom memes and they were bothering me. What are our kids seeing? Why are we all drinking so much? What’s with all the drunk mom marketing? I started to question it all and decided to make it a sober year. I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve gained. More time, energy, better sleep…better brain. I’m also shocked by the way in which alcohol is a given in our culture. What happens if you do holidays without booze? What does that look like? I don’t know what the future will bring but I like this clear present.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year – personally and professionally?
Allison: I am in talks to do another book and a TV show, as well as being an adjunct professor at Montclair State University. I’m receptive to any fun project (like this interview for example), but more than anything, you’ll be seeing more of the same. I’ll be running my private coaching practice in Montclair and raising my kids. I’ve settled into what my next 10-20 years will be about and I love leaning into that ordinary life. It’s relaxing and purposeful.
NJMOM: Who is your role model? Why?
Allison: For values and integrity, Abraham Lincoln. For perseverance in the face of gross ignorance, and level headed change-making, it’s the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It’s a fascinating time for women; when I think about how the social landscape is different now than it was 20 years ago my head explodes. So many people are responsible for that incremental change. Brene Brown and Kristen Neff are two academic thought leaders in my field I admire.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom (or parent/role model) ever gave to you?
Allison: Find your tribe. I’ve always been an outlier; never one for a clique. But the research is clear: resilience belongs to those who have community and support. When I find myself in a challenging place, situation, or time – it’s important to connect with my tribe. Small, high-quality connectedness. These days some of my closest, tightest relationships are with people I only speak with a couple of times a year. My tribe has accumulated over the decades, but boy do they know me (and call me out).
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by? Why is this quote so important to you?
Allison: I love this quote from food writer and pilot Clementine Paddleford,
Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”
Be courageous, and do that thing you say you want to do. Don’t state your aspirations; act upon them.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Allison: I love the fall, and we generally love nature and animals. You’ll find us at Brookhollow’s Barnyard in Boonton, Alstede Farms and Wightman’s Farm. We’re members of the Bloomfield-Montclair CSA that supports Tree-licious Orchards and we’re always invited up to the farms to see how food happens. I love harvest time.
I love Thanksgiving, though I don’t love the materialism that’s associated with end-of-year holidays. But New Year’s rebirth? That’s my jam! All that resolving and goal setting? Yee-haw! And because I’m Jewish, I get to enjoy the Jewish New Year on Rosh Hashana (Oct 1st this year) and again on January 1st. Double hit!
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Allison: Clarity. I know who my people are and what my primary responsibility is. I find that anchoring.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Allison: For clothes I love Dem Two Hands in Montclair – I have a couple of pieces from there and whenever I wear them it’s a guaranteed stop-me-on-the-street compliment explosion! My husband just purchased some beautiful pieces for me from Craig Brady Jewelers on Bloomfield Ave in Montclair. We love Denville Dairy, and are frequent customers at JavaLove. For food, we are regulars at Turtle & The Wolf and Halcyon, Marcel, Montclair Bread Co., Fat Fish Tacos and The Towne Scoop.
My son loves his martial arts classes at Dream Martial Arts in Montclair, and while we are about to age out of the Geyer YMCA in Montclair, it has been a miracle for kids’ and family activities. My kids love Liberty Science Center, Turtle Back Zoo and High Exposure (Northvale, NJ) Also, for pregnant and new moms, the best find-your-people venue is Montclair B.A.B.Y. on Walnut Street. I teach there and it’s where I started my mom tribe.
Our new thing our family is enjoying is fishing in Verona Park. Fishing culture transcends age, race, gender, and all you need is a pole, a reel and a hook! I must give a huge shot out to the Bullet Hole Annex in Belleville for outfitting my 6-year-olds with their rods and reels.
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Allison: We live in Montclair, and vacationed last summer in Wildwood. I like Montclair’s quirky personality, weird old houses and taxes (thinking positively here). Coming into Wildwood, we found the by-the-side-of the road Crab & Seafood Shack that nailed it – they steamed fresh crabs to order, and we loved Cape May’s Thunder Cat Dolphin Watching. Since we have so many little people, we mostly hang in local parks and playgrounds. The Essex County summer concert series at Brookdale and Verona Park are fabulous; a treat for people who don’t have shore houses. We take frequent hikes in Mills reservation and are excited to check out South Mountain Reservation as well. We are also members of the Montclair Beach Club: it’s actually located in Clifton and has no beach and no sand. It’s an old fashioned pool club, and is a great spot for families (multiple baby pools) and our kids dig it.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Allison: If you’re going to be an entrepreneur running a business, you need to figure out the money. Too many entrepreneurs get emotional about the money and then they stop running the business, they’re into all kinds of questions of self-worth and career.
Create a business plan (back of the napkin will do). Determine how much you want to invest in your business, how much you need to make, and then do it. Don’t let emotions cloud your thinking. It’s just math. It’s not your identity. You are bigger than the business you have. And if the numbers don’t work, the business doesn’t work. Perhaps it’s not a business, but a hobby (that’s fine too!). Take the emotions out of the spreadsheet. Figure out the money. It’s just math.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Allison: Our gutsy attitude and sense of humor are our biggest strengths. We know how to not take life too seriously and enjoy what we do have. Find the gratitude, experience the joy, be alive in your life. It really is that simple.