I know in industry, it's all about connections "It's not what you know; it's who you know." To what extent is that true in academic hiring?
Unfortunately perhaps, connections and networking matter a lot in academia. If you are well-connected:
- you will be invited to give talks (at conferences, or informally);
- you will be invited to be a reviewer (for papers or grants), which gives you advanced knowledge of the latest research in the field, and a great power over what gets published or even funded;
- you might obtain a job thanks to your connections (e.g. a postdoc);
However, people who know you need to be able to have nice things to say about you, so you do also need to know your stuff, to some extent. But given that everyone generally does know their stuff, connections probably do make a big difference in an academic career.
(source: my personal experience of ~10 y in academia.)