Unfortunately, seagoing jobs can be very hard to find these days. A lot of qualified, licensed individuals are out of work, and a lot of people are taking any job they can get. The job market works in cycles, so hopefully one day soon things will change. But, nobody knows when that will be and it could take a while.
If you are starting out as an OS, your best bet is to take any job that comes along which will get you the sea time you need to advance to either Able Seaman (a deck rating) or QMED (an engine rating). Advancing your credentials will increase your chances of finding a better job. You will need at least six months of sea time as an OS to advance.
The jobs with deep sea cargo vessels are usually obtained through unions. I can’t say I would be optimistic about getting a union job as an OS in the current market.
So, while your goal can still be finding the “Long Haul” job you want, in the short term you might try looking at the other end of the spectrum. Day cruise operators might need deckhands, and might be willing to hire someone new. The pay might suck, but the sea time will still count for something. Are you close enough to the coast that you could drive to a port city every day to go to work?
Besides that, you might look into commercial fishing, ferries, or riverboat cruises. They typically have longer rotations and are “live-aboard” positions that would enable you to still live in Central FL and commute to work for a several weeks at a time.
Your chances of getting a position might not be great right now, but there’s not much anyone can do about the current job market. Begin to stack the deck in your favor by getting all your documents in order (TWIC, Medical, MMC, STCW Basic Safety Training). Put together as strong a résumé as you can. You might have to do some traveling to apply for jobs, you might have to do some homework to find out who’s hiring and where. Use Google to look for “Deckhand Jobs” (erm, not the same as [I]Deck Handjobs[/I]) and see what you find.
I just found this one on indeed.com:
As promised, the pay kinda sucks, but 16 weeks of 12-hour days is pretty close to what you need to sit for an AB exam. You can climb the ladder one rung at a time, just like the rest of us. It’s do-able.
Best of luck to you, Bud.