At this point, both in this economy and in this tight employment time, You will find that simply having a good work attitude, flexibility to do whatever is asked, and the understanding that the ‘first job’ you land may (or may not) be ‘the one’ you need to learn what is expected, or what is what is really appropriate to the industry.
As an idea, you should be able to become part of a crew, join in work tasks, put in work time with enthusiasm. If you’re a ‘loner’ and don’t work well with others (even if they aren’t right next to you, but asleep on the other watch) this may not be the industry for you. If you can’t take orders (whether you like them, or not is irrelevant) then you most probably will not go far in this industry. You mention working in the East Coast Towing industry. When (if) you get hired, you will be one of two deckhands on a tug. If your Captain or Mate is NOT a good teacher then you will be floundering around, trying to figure out what to do, getting yelled at for NOT doing what is expected, or being discouraged. On the other hand, you may get onto a good tugboat and have a Captain who can/will take the time to teach you what is expected, and the proper way to do things. But in my experience, you have about a 50% chance of landing a job with such a good, bad crew.
If you decide you like this career you will find that you can actually progress up the ladder, to either the wheelhouse or engine room.
There is a really good factual book. Cornell Maritime Press. American Merchant Seamans Manual. It is Nicknamed the ‘seamans bible.’ There’s WAY more info in there than you could EVER need, remember, or use. BUT that IS a pretty definitive book explaining in huge detail almost every task you may ever be asked to perform. Most seamen now don’t even know it exists, or that the info in there is true. Even most Maritime Academy Graduates aren’t even aware of it. ( But they DO know of the ‘Officers Handbook’) Go figure.