Advice for a new Great Lakes OS/deckhand

I already posted this in the Tugs and Towing thread but wanted to cover my bases:

I’ll get straight to the point. First-timer here. I’m a 23 year old from Wisconsin, finishing his last semester of land college and am preparing to hawsepipe on the Great Lakes/inland U.S waters in Wisconsin and the surrounding area. I’m not necessarily opposed to going to a Great Lakes Academy, but I would rather start work immediately after college since I already have my TWIC and MMC. I’ve been looking at deckhand/OS jobs, and work on a tug seems like a good gig to me, but I’m not at all opposed to working on bulk carriers or other vessels; as long as I’m on a boat on the water I can’t complain. I read through and took note of the prerequisite, “Read this before you get a job!” post on the Maritime employment thread, and I also noticed someone posted about “OS in the Great Lakes Union” in the Professional Mariner forum, so maybe my post here isn’t in the right spot, but the other guy didn’t get any replies, so I’m trying my luck here anyway. I can re-post this elsewhere if I get no replies, or if this isn’t the correct place to post it.

Essentially what I’m looking for is advice and or any relevant experience anyone has working on a tug or other vessel on the Great Lakes. I’ve talked to a guy who’s an AB on a tug out in Alaska, and a gal who works on a blue-water vessel off the West coast, but they had little to no advice or experience when it came to my questions about brown/inland-water or Great Lakes employment, experience, advice, etc. I realize that there’s some overlap in terms of the industry expereience as a whole but every vessel/company/area is different, hence my request for Great Lakes experience/advice.

I’m prepared to do hard labor, and I can cook so I’m not worried about being a lowly OS/deckhand or food handler. I’m just trying to get as much info as possible before entering the industry. Preferably I’d like to land a gig working on a vessel, (rather than not) whether that’s a tug or something else. In the near future I plan to work towards my AB limited, at least, and get a job on a larger vessel, like a bulk carrier or something with longer hitches/better pay etc. I have thought about attending an academy after a year or so of work in the industry as well. Any and all information about working on the Great Lakes on a tug, or other vessel would be more than satisfactory, but specific advice/experience about certain companies, living situations (i.e renting/living near place of employment), gear recommendation, average hitch/season length in the Great Lakes area (I’ve already perused the Mariner gear guide thread, but additional info is appreciated), would be great. Thanks in advance for any and all info.