All you can control is your work. So focus on your work. Throughout your career you will face many absurd interpersonal distractions and people who are enamored of the most trivial markers of status. Learning to ignore such people and their misaligned value system is crucial to leading a meaningful life as an academic. Even if there is a star system and gatekeepers, etc. people still do manage to publish good work. The only thing one can do if one does not want to buy into that is to try to do good work.
This was the attitude I tried to keep during my many years on the market, and in general it seems to me very good advice. In fact, I think it may be the single best piece of practical wisdom I ever received--and I should really give my father a shout-out on it, as it's one of the few lessons I remember him teaching me as a little boy, one that has always stuck with me [his words: "You cannot control what other people do. All you can do is control what you do."].
That being said, there is of course the question of how well the advice actually works in any given context. One of the most common things one hears about the philosophy job-market is that it is a "lottery", based more on chance than merit. Which raises some questions: namely, how much of a lottery is it? And, does hard work/improving one's work pay off? I was thinking it might be good if readers shared their experiences. Did hard work--and improving your work--pay off for you on the market, or not? How? What is/was your evidence? Did you get more interviews, on-campus visits, and/or offers after improving your work [e.g. publishing more, improving your teaching reviews]? Or, did you experience the opposite [i.e. no improvement in your performance on the market, no matter how much you publish, where you publish, etc.]?
I do hope readers are willing to share their experiences, as it might give others some clearer [albeit still anecdotal] evidence of whether, and if so how, hard work and improvement pay off. There have, after all, been questions raised on this blog about how long one should stay on the job market, when one should give up, etc. Perhaps different people sharing their experiences will give some further insight. All I ask is that commenters be honest! My own experience is that hard work and improvement can indeed pay off on the market--but that is only my experience. What's yours been?