In any case, how much merit someone has often isn't obvious. Pretty much anyone involved in hiring will tell you that internal referrals are one of the best ways (if not the best way) to at least figure out who to put into hiring pipeline.
If you don't do any marketing of yourself, nobody is going to know about your merit. "Build it and they will come" is a Hollywood fantasy, not reality.
Whereas if I network with people the jobs they recommend are far more likely to be a fit because I've networked with them - they know my skills.
Fair or not, it's how most everything in life works. For good things to happen you, you have to put yourself in a position where good things can find you. That means marketing yourself. It applies to getting your dream job just as much as it applies to getting your dream partner.
Even if you get your dream job, talent and hard work simply isn't good enough. You'll need to be able to sell your ideas to others in the company.
I didn't realize you were such a philosopher.
That's my point!
"Why should we let you join our group?"
"Because I'm part of your group."
Also, frequently these issues become very Rashomon-like. Why did Bob not get along with anyone at site X? Is it because of Bob, or X, or because they were a poor fit for each other?
What's infuriating (or depressing) about this stuff from my perspective is that there's an implicit assumption always that the person complaining about not building networks has not built the networks because of poor social skills, rather than problems with the networks themselves.
I'm not naive about social connections, but in my experience the social skills stuff is vastly overrated. Serious problems get ignored when it's a friend, and molehills are made into mountains when it's not. It tends to devolve into petty gossip and junior high infighting.
The expected shredinger-distance of your cv is given by G * N^2, G being cv weight and N your networking coefficient.
I will vouch for someone who I know and is not terrible. I'm not going to vouch for someone who I don't know. So there is an element of having connections. There is also an element of social skills as in any endeavor that involves more than one person.