Retired Mechanical Engineer
Cobleskill, New York
There is a cynical saying: "It's not what you know, It's who you know". This saying has been around longer than I have been alive. It is unfortunate that quite a few people succeed based on their "connections", rather than their abilities. That being said, it is quite possible to succeed without having connections. My older brothers and sister were the first generation in my family to attend college. I came from a small farm and attended college several states away from my home. My first job was in a state even farther from my home, so I had no connections.
I have had good managers, and poor managers. I would say that in engineering (or technical occupations) one is more likely to succeed without connections than in other, less technical occupations. This is because your suggestions, ideas, and actions are more likely to be easier and quicker to determine their value than in other less technical areas. I guess it all boils down to: keep trying your best, work hard, and don't get discouraged and you will be more likely to succeed than to get discouraged by how unfair life can be.