Career Changers Expat Career Change

Leaving a prison officer job to become a beauty business owner

I worked seven days a week, taking every overtime possible, trying to save money to be able to invest. After 18 months I opened my studio in London. It was really scary. I didn’t know anyone in the area, and I was worried about how to get my first clients.

Changing career requires to overcome subconscious feelings of unworthiness

According to a survey from the London School of Business & Finance, 47% of the UK workforce would like to make a career change, rising to 66% for Millennials. Financial insecurity and fear of failure are the main obstacles in making a career change, followed by other external challenges.

In many instances changing careers is not only a matter of learning new skills, something that can be achieved through education or training, but overcoming subconscious feelings of unworthiness or more simply of “not being enough.” In this case, the help of a qualified career coach can contribute to remove such blockages. 

In this new series, we are meeting the career changers, people that had the audacity to change their life and explore several careers path.

This week Dorota Zelazny shares her story. Dorota speaks four languages and has a background in insurance and administration. She got a prison officer job motived by the desire to help others, but soon she realised that her dream was to open her own business, and she went straight for it. 

Becoming a prison officer

How did you become a prison officer?

 I was curious. Also, I wanted to do something rewarding. I thought I would be contributing to prisoners rehabilitation, but I’ve learned that you can’t help people who don’t want to be helped.

I registered my interest online, and later on, I received an email of interest from HMPS (Her Majesty’s Prison Service). There was an assessment day, which involved medical examination, maths, English and fitness tests, and five very intense role-play scenarios. After vetting checks, I received the job offer.

The basic training was eight weeks long, six weeks at the Prison Service College, which was residential and two weeks in the establishment; mine was Wormwood Scrubs in west London.  

 How was your experience as a prison officer?

 I worked at Wormwood Scrubs for four and a half years. In the first two years, I was based on D wing, which holds 244 high-risk prisoners, all single-occupancy cells. After that, I moved to the detox unit. It’s a place where committed from court prisoners have been identified as having a drink or drug-related problems. They spend their first 3-10 days getting medicated until they are stable enough to be moved to a standard residential location.

Did you enjoy the job? Which were the pro’s and the cons?

 I enjoyed the structure and discipline, so the job was well suited for me. I also learned a lot about people, how to deal with difficult, challenging, and unpredictable situations. The whole experience made me much more assertive. I am sure all those skills have contributed to the success of my current business.

Wanting to help people to feel better about themselves by promoting a healthy lifestyle

When did you start thinking about changing your career?

 When I was on annual leave, I discovered HYPOXI, a unique and effective weight loss technology. At that time, I was struggling with my weight from when I turned 30. I was intrigued and drawn to it immediately. I did a course of treatments with amazing results. That helped me to go back to my old shape, and I felt so impressed with the results that I wanted to make this technology available to as many people as possible. At that moment, I realised that I wanted to open my HYPOXI centre. My mission was clear. I wanted to help people to feel better about themselves by promoting a healthy lifestyle.

I didn’t have a plan B, because if you have one, plan A will never work

What challenges did you have to face to start your own business?

 I worked seven days a week, taking every overtime possible, trying to save money to be able to invest. HYPOXI isn’t a franchise, so I had to buy the equipment. After approximately 18 months of negotiating with HYPOXI and working all those impossible hours, I opened my studio in Chiswick, West London. It was really scary. I didn’t know anyone in the area, and I was worried about how to get my first clients.  At that point, I had no savings left, so success was not an option. I had to go through some very hard times; at one point, I even almost became homeless. At times, I wasn’t sure how I was going to buy food.

Before leaving my prison officer job at HMPS, I remember someone asking me what my plan B was, and this is what I answered: “I don’t’ have one because if you have a plan B, plan A will never work.”

How long did you contemplate changing your career and leaving your prison officer job for?

 I always wanted to have my own business, but I couldn’t find my niche. I needed something exciting, something different, and when I discovered HYPOXI, I just knew that that was what I was looking for, and nothing was going to stop me.

Skills, languages and childhood dreams

Which transferable skills did you use to start your own business?

 People skills and assertiveness are the most important ones for running my business.

How many languages do you speak?

 I speak four languages:

  • Polish is my native language;
  • English to a fluent level. I started learning it when I was going to primary school. My parents paid for the lessons because they were not included in the curriculum. I then progressed my English studies in secondary school and took A levels. When I came to the UK in 2000, I continued to learn it at college.
  •  Russian, it was compulsory in primary school. I haven’t had the opportunity to practice, so I don’t remember too much.
  • German, it was compulsory in secondary school, but I haven’t used it since.

What difference has the knowledge of these languages made in your life?

 Learning English early in life has allowed me to build a new life in the UK and integrate fully with the community.

Which job did you want to do when you were a child? Did you do it? 

 I wanted to be a Goldsmith, but it’s something that I never did.

Expanding my business

After a few years of opening your studio, you decided to expand and move to bigger premises and to rebrand your activity. How did you do the transition from HYPOXI to Dorota’s Lifestyle Studio?

 After getting to know my clients, I learned their needs, so the natural way was to add more services and expand the business. To be able to do this, I needed bigger premises, so I moved the studio just down the road.

What are the highlights and lowlights of your job?

 Highlights – the sky is the limit; there are no lowlights.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

 Mostly I enjoy interactions with people and the fact that I am my own boss. I think I have an ideal job. 

The present and the future

What is your typical day at work? 

I work a minimum of twelve hours a day. I open the studio at 8 am on most days and finish approx. 8-9 pm. I spend my days providing services for my client, HYPOXI, Formostar, and NanoTech. The other beauty treatments are provided by my beauty therapists. The job is very social, so all I do all day long is chatting with my clients, who often become friends. 

Where do you see yourself in the future?

 As I recently moved to much bigger premises, I am investing in providing more services for my clients. Once I achieve this, I’ll be looking into opening more studios.

What did I learn by leaving my prison officer job

Why do you think changing a career is a good thing?

I don’t think being stuck in a job that you don’t enjoy is useful for anyone. Instead of complaining how bad it is, take charge and change it, do what makes you happy.

Getting out of the comfort zone is very difficult, but once you do, you learn things that you didn’t even know existed, and you really feel good about yourself.

Any special tips you would like to share with our readers?

 The most inspirational book I’ve ever read was Duncan Bannatyne autobiography, “Anyone can do it.” If you’re thinking about changing a career, read it, and you definitely will.


Did you enjoy reading “Leaving a prison officer job to become a beauty business owner”? Read other inspirational career changers stories.

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