Diane Shao, now a medical resident and postdoctoral researcher at Boston Children's Hospital, writes at Science that she got her first research job at age 15 by emailing scientists and then showing up at their offices.
She took a similar go-getter approach in college when she asked potential advisers whether they thought they had a low-risk project she could take on and get a first-author paper out of. While she says that some professors didn't care for her approach, she found a researcher who had just the project for her, and she was his only undergrad to graduate with a first-author paper.
Shao notes in her piece at Science that "people who actively promote themselves or advocate for their careers" are thought to be by many in academia "less intelligent or less deserving" as talent is often thought to be the key to a successful career.
But that isn't quite true, according to Shao. "The reality is that creating opportunities for career advancement is as important as innate scientific talent," she says.